(Insights from a 30-Something College Student) #3: You Get The Help You Ask For

Jul 27, 2018

4 minutes

Do you know what it feels like to be drowning?

Gasping for air, reaching for any solid object, wondering if everything in your life was worth it?

In my early teenage years, I trained to be a swimmer and won a few competitions (I’m a backstroke swimmer, for the curious). To this day, I still appreciate my “interesting” coach, who was very insistent that we learn how to dive properly + know how to drown.

Yes, I wrote that right.

It’s also a common practice for those training to be Navy SEALs. From what I know, when training for the SEALs, they strap numerous weights to you that will force you to the bottom of the pool, then they tell you “try not to drown.”

That’s what it can feel like when you’re in college – especially as an adult.

What’s your first reaction?

For many, it’s to panic. I mean, you might die, right?

In college, you might fail. You might humiliate yourself. You might invest an incredible amount of time, energy, + money into a degree that does you nothing after graduation.

When learning to drown, the key is to fight your brain’s natural urge to panic. 

My former coach used a similar method as the SEALs to teach us how to drown, with numerous lifeguards monitoring the entire process.

In the case of swimming, inside of fighting the weight, you LET it take you to the bottom of the pool. The weight will naturally shift with your body. Your body is naturally buoyant, so after some time, you’ll float to the top, slowly, even with the additional weight still attached … then the process will start all over.

(This only applies for certain amounts of weight. If the weight is more than your body weight, this won’t work.)

In the case of diving, you WANT to sink, but if you’re swimming, you don’t. For swimmers, the exercise teaches you about your body’s natural buoyancy and, when competing, you’re both embracing + pushing against that natural ability.

Also, it teaches you to react calmly in panic-inducing situations. Adrenaline surges in stressful situations (like competition, classes, + tests) and knowing how to use it is one of the most vital skills for athletes (and students) to learn.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed in college (or in life), you only have 2 options:

  1. Panic + resist
  2. Don’t panic + ask for help


When drowning, if you panic, you use up more oxygen + sink slower, making it more likely that you will drown.

When in college, if you panic, you waste valuable time + energy to REACTING to your problem (like taking on too much or not fully understanding what you’re studying) instead of solving the problem.

When drowning, if you stay calm, you can ask your body for help. Your body’s natural ability to float will help you return to the oxygen-giving surface of the water.

When in college, if you stay calm + ask for help, you’ll most likely get it. Perhaps not from the first person you ask – they may not be able to help you, but they probably know someone who can.

As a former I-can-do-it-all-myself person, asking for help was tantamount to failure.

After a few decades of practice, I actually enjoy asking for help … or at least, I THINK I do.

I’ll be the first to admit when I don’t know something if the person in front of me can explain it to me – I’m a glutton for learning new things … but if it’s knowledge I THINK I SHOULD already have, my ego gets fussy + I have to fight it.

During Summer break, I wanted to work with a tutor to help progress my Japanese knowledge. I found one online and we had a lesson. She was fantastic.

We scheduled our next lesson, but I wasn’t feeling well, so we rescheduled. Unfortunately, she was heading back to Japan for the month, so we scheduled a bunch of lessons for when she got back.

Now, a week before those lessons were about to start, I canceled them all.

I asked for help, I got it, then I rejected it.

The entire Summer, I’ve been re-studying what I learned in the previous semester and progressing forward to prepare for the next semester and the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) that I’ll be taking in December 2018.

I quickly discovered that my methods weren’t working. Nothing was sticking. I was starting to panic.

So I went back to basics.

I bought a different textbook than the one my college uses. My new textbook has MANY more tools, like audio recordings, numerous practice exercises, and more to help really cement the material into your brain from every angle (audio, video, writing, + reading).

Since I began working with the new textbook, I can recall things faster, and I’ve begun using more Japanese words and grammar in my daily life. I can even think in Japanese (a tiny bit!).

While my goal to work with a tutor is still possible, I feel that I’ve gotten the help I needed. My lesson with her opened a window into what study methods do + don’t work for a 30-something person trying to learn a new language.

In the end, the help I got wasn’t even the help I thought I needed.

And I never would have known if I didn’t ask for SOME kind of help.


When you start to panic (and you will – we all do), don’t dwell in the panic.

Ask for help. Ask yourself what is the ONE thing you think you need help with right now. FIND that help + let it change you for the better (even if not in the way you expected).

Remember: drowning is optional. Survival isn’t always your biggest threat.

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

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