Advanced Beginner

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When I started putting my daughters in swimming lessons several years ago, I was disappointed to find that the names of the levels have changed since I was a kid. The American Red Cross no longer has a monopoly on swimming instruction, so instead of Beginner or Intermediate your local pool officials now assess your child and call her a Guppy, a Tadpole, a Starfish or whatever other marine creature suits their fancy.

I come from a long line of lifeguards, so I feel like my kids are missing out on a lot of the things I loved about my Red Cross childhood, like those fabulous hand-stitched patches and those important little buttons and cards you'd get after completing each level. But to my mind the biggest loss is the term "Advanced Beginner."

The way I remember it, you started as a Beginner, after which you were an Advanced Beginner, an Intermediate and finally a Swimmer. The last two weren't my favorites. Swimmer didn't seem so advanced and Intermediate implied failure, like your best wasn't all that great. To go beyond Intermediate you'd need talent, which, let's face it, you probably lacked.

But Advanced Beginner -- there's a promising status to hold. You tried something you've never tried before. You're bold, a risk-taker. You took the chance of looking like an idiot in public. And you nailed it. Whatever it took to go from knowing nothing to knowing something you can pass a test in is behind you. You're advanced. You have advanced. Why wouldn't you advance further? There's no reason. You're on a roll.

Given that times are so tough and I find myself in turbulent waters so often, I've decided to resurrect the title in my personal and professional life. I refuse to be a Guppy. Every time I have to start over and I make some progress, I will consider myself an Advanced Beginner. I can do it, whatever it is, and I have the proof. Not too long ago I had never tried it, and now I have. Eventually, I will touch the wall. We all will.


With a Perspective, I'm Stephanie Losee.