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MASSEY: No expiry date when seeking wisdom

The value of self-actualization can last a lifetime

The warm, humid air from the ventilation system blows heat gently against my arms and legs as I saunter across the pool deck in my swimsuit at the Tournament Capital Centre.

Breathing shallowly to mitigate the pungent smell of chlorine from entering my nasal passages, I walk past the participants in the bronze medallion course and scan the room. Most of the participants are at least a decade younger than me and I pause for a moment to ponder if my friend Julien was correct — am I going to be the oldest one in the class?

The bronze medallion, the Lifesaving Society’s flagship certification, is a prerequisite for the Bronze Cross training program to become an assistant lifeguard. The program focuses on four components of water rescue education: judgment, knowledge, skill and fitness. The goal is to help participants form critical thinking skills to solve complex problems both in and around the water during their progression to becoming a lifesaver or a lifeguard.

In Ohpikináwasowin Growing a Child: Implementing Indigenous Ways of Knowing with Indigenous Families, authored by a collection of Indigenous contributors from nations all over Canada with the support of traditional knowledge keepers and elders, the topic of seeking wisdom is explored from the perspective of “two worlds:” Western and Indigenous worldviews.

As a Swampy Cree-Métis citizen who grew up with no direct ties to the community or to my paternal family, I read this book two years ago, before the idea of taking a swimming program was even a consideration in my mind. At that time, I was in search of stories about my family’s culture and personal experiences from Indigenous storytellers to develop a deeper understanding of my estranged paternal roots.

It isn’t easy to access stories from different perspectives in different voices and I was pleasantly surprised to find a book of this nature during a visit to Calgary.

That’s when it hit me, pool-side — the collection of lessons from Ohpikinåwasowin taught me that while the Western worldview is dominated by hitting major milestones in life, the Indigenous worldview is focused on sharing a common understanding of the interconnectedness between the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms.

Both schools of thought are multi-dimensional, but the key difference for me was that the Indigenous worldview values the fact that everyone goes through the eight interconnected stages of life at their own pace — eventually reaching all of them.

Instead of participating in the bronze medallion course when it opens up to people at the age 13, I was doing it at 33.

Prioritizing competing in sports, or even against myself, never gained much traction when I was younger, but as an adult living with medical conditions, being active quickly became a necessity in recent years.

Swimming is a low-impact sport that doesn’t put a lot of strain on muscles and joints while exercising — the perfect solution for a year-round activity. And they say it takes just 21 days to build a new habit.

The bronze medallion course requires participants to swim 400 metres within 12 minutes as part of an endurance swim, while also simulating victim recognition, tows, carries, entries, removals, defenses and releases, submerged victim recoveries and drowning resuscitation for children and adults.

The opportunity to seek wisdom never expires and the value of self-actualization can last a lifetime. I’m grateful to have completed the program successfully and was proud to tell my six-year-old son that I passed my “swimming lessons,” as he affectionately called it over the span of a fortnight.