11/26/2012 12:02 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2013

Drowning and Other Fears

My oldest memory, as many of my childhood recollections, takes place at my grandparents' house in New York -- before they migrated to Florida. I am happily splashing around in their backyard pool. I'm nearly 4 years old, wearing a sparkly Barbie bathing suit, my blonde curly hair in pigtails.

I'm kicking my petite feet, spinning in circles within my tiny inner tube. I do not know how to swim, so this will suffice.

My legs are too short to reach the shallow floor. I move too quickly, and I slip through my floating, unfrosted donut.

I can't breathe.

I'm inhaling water, choking... drowning.

The irony of my story, of course, is that less than a year later, my immediate family moved to Florida, where practically everyone ages 4 and older can synchronize swim like Olympians. The relocation is also ironic because I will spend my youth in a state where I am allergic to its most notable citric export.

Aside from my near-death experience -- followed by a move to a state of metaphoric minefields -- I've been very lucky to avoid brushes with death despite getting my driver's permit at 15, crowd surfing at concerts (sorry, Mom) and commuting to and from college on Interstate 10.

Still, I do not fear the water, fruits that do not rhyme, driving, loud music and/or large crowds. I stand by my fear of I-10. That boring two-lane road is just too much.

Additionally, I have a fear of failure. Many do. Mine is not the kind that involves a tainted transcript or a nasty comment from a reader (feel free to leave me love notes below). I can handle embarrassing moments, and I can accept when I'm wrong (though it isn't often). I kid, I kid.

My failure fear is centered on expecting too much of myself and having too many goals. There are 24 hours in a day. And this girl appreciates sleep. Like Barbie, I want to do it all. I'm no longer blonde, I'm not 6 feet tall, nor am I obsessed with the color pink, but even still, there are many shoes (specifically ones with 5-inch heels), I just want to try.

I fear that if I do not fall from my platform pumps, I will drown in my dreams. I will reach some and others -- like my unfortunate and irresponsible inner tube -- will escape me, for I lack the time to learn how to maneuver -- swim, if you will -- through them.

I guess that's okay (reaching the important ones, sans the part about drowning). Barbie wears many hats, but I'm not sure she's the best at anything, besides, well, smiling and playing dress up. Plus, I'm pretty particular about hats.

In the meantime, I'm splashing around, finding my footing -- or at least borrowing some time, or water wings.

The good news, in all of its clichéd beauty, is what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Take that, kickboxing Barbie.

I can swim. I can drive. I can turn the volume on my music up and I can turn it down. I no longer have to drive on that awful east/west path. I have the ability to join, surf the crowd or walk away, and strangely enough, I'm no longer allergic to oranges.

For more by Hilary Sheinbaum, click here.

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