Outdoor swimming, or wild swimming, is trendy now. As an outdoor fitness activity, it can be an effective antidote to depression, anxiety and stress but I’m not here to document it’s wide-ranging benefits. I’m here to explain what it did for me, personally and professionally. I make no secret of the fact that I went through a bit of an identity crisis and a dry spell of creativity eighteen months ago, and I’m always delighted to discuss it with anyone who can relate to it. In 2017, I had my third – and final – beautiful baby and whilst I enjoyed her immensely, I lost myself further in a world that seemed so far removed from artistic talent, flair and evolution.
Losing your mojo
Now I’m not saying that this is an inevitable, universal by-product of becoming a mum, or a parent. It could be that I was just careless with myself, complacent even, to let things slip, or maybe I never had a good enough grip on them in the first place – who knows? All I do know is that, as I focussed on being a mum, I lessened my grip on my business and my identity, and it fell through my fingers – like sand on the shore. At the age of 37, when my third child turned two, I didn’t know what I liked, I didn’t know what I was good at, and I didn’t know what I wanted. I had no idea what style to decorate my house, let alone work out which direction my photography was heading. Was it going anywhere at all?
The fact is, you cannot inspire people if you’re not inspired yourself. Moreover, you can’t express yourself if you don’t know yourself.
It was a startling realisation to have, overwhelming to say the least. Where do you start? How do you go about finding your path in life when you’ve forgotten/never discovered who you really are? Well, you have to seek it out. There were a few things which shook me awake again, and THE LAKE was one of these things.
The lure of the lake
When I heard that people could swim in Horseshoe Lake, a watery gravel pit five minutes from my house, I was intrigued and excited. I felt a real calling. An overwhelming inclination to jump in. Why? Because it sounded different, unusual, reinvigorating. It sounded like FREEDOM. And as I tried persuading others to join me and was only met with a puzzled frown, a shudder or teasing about how many waterborne diseases I would contract, it made me even more determined to go for it. There it was – a new idea and a DRIVE, and it felt empowering. I realised just how keen I was to get out of my comfort zone and see what I was capable of.
My first swim
I remember the first time I swam in the lake, adorning my new wetsuit and swim-cap. My heart was beating wildly, I worried about what lurked beneath, and I only dared do one lap. Nerves aside, I emerged breathless and exhilarated by the experience. As the summers passed, I did less and less front crawl in that lake, and more breaststroke with my head above the water, taking in the blue sky, the passing ducks, the ripples, the trees, the serenity. Athletes overtook me, their faces in the water, but I would let them win. I raced less, and so battled less and enjoyed more. It was wonderfully therapeutic movement.
How did it influence my photography? Because it triggered a change in me. I began to fully understand the healing power of the outdoors and the importance of getting out your comfort zone in order to discover new things about yourself. From here, other outdoor pursuits were born. I started walking the Thames river, all 184-miles of it, with a good pal and again – felt as though I had created something that was all MINE. My photography gravitated towards capturing people outdoors, a place I felt most comfortable and creative, and I started to channel all my passion and energy into this niche which became so meaningful to me. I hired a business coach, and latched onto other positive, driven women out there who were building businesses around their small children. I felt as though I was back in the game and I wasn’t trying to imitate others, I was thinking clearly about who I was and what I was capable of. I set up a creative writing group in the village and started writing poems again. I picked up a book, started reading again and couldn’t stop. I basically fell down this huge creative, inspirational well and instead of drowning, I swam. Kept myself afloat.
So that is why I credit swimming in Horseshoe Lake as bringing a new dimension and momentum to my photography. This summer, emerging out of lockdown, it has continued to do so. I am a better person when I come out of that lake. I am a fresher, calmer, wiser, more confident and motivated woman. I am everything I need to be in order to fuel and run a little business.
What’s your lake?
I’m not saying that outdoor swimming is for everyone. I definitely don’t think we should all descend on the lake, but I do believe that we all need to find and own our own individual “thing”, whether it’s tap dancing, birdwatching, upholstering, making fairy houses or baking cheesecakes. Whatever it is, be proud of it and let it give you time to stop, think, readjust, realign and ultimately, BE YOU. A strong, decisive, unique, better YOU.