Sink, Swim, or Float

by Christian Thomas Golden

When faced with a challenge, I will either sink, swim, or float. That is, I will either fail (sink), succeed (swim), or just get by (float). I’ve experienced all three. I’ve succeeded, failed, and just gotten by.

Now, it may be possible to experience all three with regard to one challenge. For example, let’s say I just started a new job. Throughout the first few weeks I am trying to earn my keep. I am diligently studying and practicing all policies and procedures. I am swimming.

After a while, I begin to be exposed to disgruntled coworkers. They show a lack of enthusiasm and a blatant disregard for policies and procedures. Now I have to choose whether to continue swimming or float or sink. If I decide to respond by just going with the flow or working on auto-pilot, I would be choosing to float.

If I chose to allow those disgruntled employees to convince me that I too should disregard policies and procedures, I would be choosing to sink.

After I’d been working in human services for some time, someone from upper management pulled me aside to talk with me. She asked me how I was doing and how the job was going. I told her that I was doing well and that I was surprised that I’d actually come to be reasonably successful working in that field. She responded by saying, “Christian, in this field you either sink or swim. You keep swimming.”

However, there were plenty of people working there who’d been working there for several years. They must be swimming, right? Not at all. But they didn’t sink, did they? Nope. They were (and probably still are) floating. They were simply floating along, directed by the ebbs and flows of the ocean.

Now that I am working in the field of juvenile corrections, I see the same evil: some swim, some sink, and some float. The same fate awaits them all. For the sinkers hold tight to the feet of the floaters, the floaters hold tight to the swimmers, and the swimmers either give up swimming or swim until they die.

All I can say is this: there is no joy in sinking or floating, but only in the swim. Why live without joy?

In fact, what life is there without joy? Even a rock exists.

I want to live.