Guest Blog by Bailey Forsyth
I should probably start by introducing myself – my name is Bailey, and I’m Teresa’s introverted, first born daughter. I think I’ve made an appearance on here once or twice, thankfully all good things – my mom didn’t HAVE to be so nice, but she was. Thanks, mom :).
Anyways, brief background on me: I am a senior at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, double majoring in International Affairs and Economics (please don’t ask what I want to do with that, I still don’t know, and I’m so sick of coming up with some bullshit answer every time – I’m just trying to survive out here). I’m also a sprinter and a captain on the track and field team (I know, I know, hold your applause); I love the grittiness of sprinting, and it’s something that I am immensely proud of.
As we all know, 2020 was pretty shitty, for a number of reasons. If you’ve been following my mom’s lovely blog, you know my family has had a doozy of a year – why not throw cancer at my mom, too? Just get all of the shit out of the way in one terrible year. Anyways, the middle of March was when my 2020 track season officially got cancelled due to Covid. In a word, I was devastated. To have that pulled out from under me was a blow, and I took it pretty hard. I’ll admit that it was far from the end of the world, but track was (is) one of the biggest factors to my mental health. To lose that in the middle of a pandemic, while still trying to process the information that my mom had cancer, was Hard. Watching one of the most important people in your life go through something like that is Fucked Up, and I felt pretty helpless about the whole thing.
I ended up moving back home to the island, because school was online, and I wanted to be around for my family while my mom went through her cancer “journey” or whatever bullshit people call it. I never thought I would be living with my parents again for the long term, but all of a sudden I was back in my childhood bedroom. Which isn’t inherently a bad thing, but I was a fresh 21! I should have been doing stupid college kid things with my friends on the weekends! I mean, don’t get me wrong, Jim and Teresa know how to party, but having a beer with dinner and then going to bed by 10 wasn’t *exactly* how I had pictured my evenings going.
I probably sound ungrateful – that wasn’t the case! I’m lucky to have such a great family who loves me so much. It was just too much all at once for my brain to handle in a healthy way. In short, I got depressed, and hit a low that I hadn’t seen since high school. It was tough. My motivation was at an all-time low, and I couldn’t do anything but watch as my mom took on this monster that I couldn’t do anything about, and I had to face it every damn day. There’s no distracting yourself from the Bad Thing if you’re stuck in quarantine with it for weeks on end.
Despite everything, I think my mom caught on, because she started dragging me along to swim with her and her friends, even when she wasn’t allowed in the water herself. Now, I’ve swam with these guys occasionally during the summers, when it’s nice and warm out, but APRIL? No offense, but what college kid wants to get up for an 8am swim in 50 degree water?? It certainly wasn’t very high on my priority list at the time. But I did it, because it was something to do, and I finally found something I could do for her – I could be her place holder in the water until she could get back in.
So I got up at 7.
And froze my ass off.
And immediately wanted to go again.
I mean this in the most literal sense: it just might have saved my life. I was quickly losing all sense of myself, which is something that terrifies me. The water was cathartic.
All of a sudden, I was surrounded by beauty, and people who just loved life. It was infectious, and I couldn’t possibly be depressed when I was immersed in salt water and surrounded by friends. I realized I was probably in the best place possible – where else could I run for 20 minutes and end up on a beach where I looked out and there were dozens of porpoises playing at the drop off? Nowhere, I tell you. The cold water seemed to shock me out of whatever funk I had fallen into, and I emerged feeling resilient. It was meditative and cathartic; the water was a safe place to work out problems in my head, while simultaneously exhausting my body.
There were countless times I found myself smiling like an idiot into the water (the flounders that saw me probably thought I was a psychopath). My favorite days were when the water was a little too rough, and you got out feeling like you just went 10 rounds with Rocky. A close second was when we were playing in the bioluminescence at 10pm on a Tuesday night after drinking shitty Kirkland-brand margaritas. I mean, come ON!
I ended up spending the summer surrounded by friends, and had some of the best times in recent memory – I think I laughed harder and longer when I was with them than I have in years. Granted, they weren’t the friends I had expected to be hanging out with this summer, but rather were new friends I made that I lovingly refer to as my “old people friends” (I should clarify that none of them are actually old, but I think the age gap between myself and the next oldest of the group is roughly 35 years).
They welcomed me with open arms, and I loved spending any kind of time with them. The water not only saved me mentally, but it led me to some of the coolest people I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet, and the cool part was I think they liked me back!
I was home for Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, and was overwhelmed, kinda sad, and completely stressed out of my brain. The water was a balmy 47 degrees, and I hadn’t swam in about a month. But it didn’t matter. My mom and my friends were there, grinning like the lunatics they are, way too excited about getting in the Sound at this time of year. The water welcomed me back home like I hadn’t missed a beat, and, taking after my mother, I cried into my goggles.
– Bailey James
(Note from TJ: Some days you’re given a gift you can never repay. So much gratitude. Love you, Babygirl.)