That’s such a popular saying. It means that it’s hard to change habits you’ve had for a long time. And it makes sense too if you think about it—skills we learn as children make up who we are as adults.
One such skill I acquired, quite early on in life, was swimming. My mother, like most over-zealous parents, hoping I’d become a smart athletic one day, signed me up for a swimming club. I was perhaps five or six.
The poor instructor spent many an hour in the water, trying hard to get me to co-operate with him. I wouldn’t. About four years later, I still hadn’t learnt anything except that the canteen had delectable fish pastry and ice-cold chocolate milk.
Undeterred, my mother signed me up for the school swimming classes. It was a free service offered by a school-sponsored instructor, and it completely eliminated my potential plea about wasted fees.
I had no way out.
So I learnt to swim. The instructor was exceptionally skilled, and started us off on the baby pool. Because it was so shallow, it was so easy to wade in the water and get accustomed to kicking and arm strokes.
I even began enjoy swimming.
The school instructor had managed to achieve what the paid instructor couldn’t for years.
Not long afterwards, life happened and I had to give up swimming.
Fifteen years later, I signed up for a different swimming club. Yesterday. In Canberra.
That’s when I realised: old practices don’t just come back after all those years. I spent almost 30 minutes in the pool, too scared to swim. Memories from my old swimming club rushed into my head, swelling into my chest, reminding me of that paid instructor who never succeeded.
Today I went back. This time, I headed to the wading pool—the shallow one, equivalent to the baby pool. I practiced on my own. Replaying the old instructions in my head—powerful arm strokes, kicking, breathing in while my face is out of the water and blowing out bubbles when in. It took me about 20 minutes, but by the end of it, I’d done it. I’d recalled a large portion of my swimming lessons.
I’m not finished yet. I still have at least a few more self-learning sessions in the wading pool before I can go back to swimming properly again.
So yes, old habits do die hard. But once they die, it can be quite challenging to revive them too.