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Expressway: Life lessons from a buoy and a diploma

A swimmer in the water at Cedar Beach

A swimmer in the water at Cedar Beach in Southold. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Staring out into the ocean, I felt ready. I had been coming to Jones Beach my whole life, and had always wondered when the day would come that I would dive into the ocean at Field 6 and swim about 190 yards to a white, cone-shaped buoy and back.

A casual swimmer, I knew this would be a challenge. Still, that afternoon last July, I dove in with my mom, my sister and some friends and began swimming toward my goal. As I took my first stroke, I felt a sense of déjà vu. I wondered where this familiarity was coming from because I had never done anything like this before. Wanting to keep my focus, I shrugged off the feeling.

But as I swam, I flashed back to my first weeks at Syosset High School. As a freshman in 2009, new classes, classmates and experiences awaited me. I was prepared to confront setbacks while working toward my academic goals.

Almost halfway to the buoy, the water became choppy, and my feet could no longer reach the ocean floor. Realizing there was still quite a distance left, I picked up my pace. Swimming freestyle, I kept my eye on the buoy.

The déjà vu hit me again. As the waves curled over my head, I started thinking about school. High school can be tough, and I have always tried to succeed in my classes as well as extracurricular activities in the performing arts. There have been times when achieving success in school has been a balancing act.

In the past two years, I have worked most weekday afternoons as a part-time gymnastics coach. I also was in the chorus or cast in several school musicals. Junior year brought college admissions exams, advanced placement English and several honors-level classes. In senior year, I would face five advanced placement classes, tasks as historian for the school theater club and college applications.

I'm a teenager, of course, so I also liked to hang out with friends and my family.

I think all of these activities gave me confidence for my long swim in July. Knowing that I had only myself to rely on to stay afloat scared me a bit; sometimes I wanted to turn back. But I reassured myself that I was in the company of my mom, sister and friends. We were all swimming well.

When I finally reached the buoy, I grabbed it and looked back at the beach. Though out of breath, it felt so good knowing that I had accomplished my goal. It was not at all easy, but recalling some challenges during high school, I knew that giving up is never the right answer.


The swim back to the beach seemed a lot easier. I just let the waves carry me. When we finally reached the shore, we cheered as we were greeted by onlookers and friends.

This is how I expect my high school graduation to be in a couple weeks, filled with excitement over the completion of my journey. Then I'll have the summer to relax before I begin my next journey. College will be a brand new swim to the buoy.

Reader Amanda Lynn Whorlow lives in Syosset.


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