Updated: Oct 19, 2020
I started swimming laps on my own because I was a bored lifeguard. Adult swim was 15 minutes at the top of each hour, and was pretty much the only time I could swim laps unimpeded by oblivious kids playing in the water and darting across the lanes. Summer swim team experience allowed me to squeeze in a 1/2 mile at an adult swim if I started the minute they blew the whistle to ”clear the pool, all kids out.” I’d do it twice so I picked up the habit of swimming a mile a day.
Even after lifeguarding, I continued this habit thru college, law school and into adulthood, when the two 15 minutes collapsed into a one-mile swim. Sometimes, I’d mix it up with kicking if I had time, but that was not quite as efficient. I went to BC, a Jesuit college, and remember an older priest watching me kicking at the Rex Plex pool one day until he called to me, “you are a very patient person.”
While my parents denied it for years, until my father laughingly admitted its truth a few years before he died, they insisted their children learn to drink coffee black, because you wouldn’t want to embarrass your hosts by asking for milk or sugar that they may not have any. So like my 4 siblings, I never became a coffee drinker. Instead, to help myself wake up, I’d swim a mile a day before classes or work. When interviewing for my first legal job, I was always offered coffee that I’d decline by saying that I didn’t drink coffee, which invariably led to the question of how I stayed awake in law school classes and I’d reply that I swam a mile a day to wake up.
This turned out to be an unexpected boost to my legal career since I was told by Michael, a partner I later worked with, that someone on the hiring committee said, “if she’s willing to swim a mile a day before law school, she must be a hard worker.”
Swimming also got me my first legal argument in court. I was a first year associate and I’d swim at the health club next door to the firm in downtown Boston before work. One morning, this same partner, Michael, ended up swimming in the lane next to me. When I realized he was there and I had passed him, I switched from freestyle to backstroke and passed him again. I switched to breaststroke but still passed him. I decided forget it, I’m just going to swim. Before running into Michael at the pool, I had drafted a motion for a case we were working on together and had asked to argue the motion in court, but Michael told me, no, he needed to argue the motion because it was an important client. Later the morning of the day I ran into Michael at the pool, and literally swam laps around him, he saw me in the hallway at the firm, slapped me on the back and said, “you can do that argument!” Whenever I tell that story, I always joke that I was tempted to ask, if I could throw a football, would you let me try the case? I also joke that I swim so that I can eat more chocolate but really it’s a habit I can’t break.