Since I started the Bexhill SeaGals Group, a number of people have asked me what made me set the group up. I imagine they envisage that it was because I loved sea swimming, or because I’m a real outdoor person and wanted to share my passion with other women. In reality, neither of those things are true.
I don’t actually like being cold and I’m not a confident swimmer (I’ve only started swimming out of my depth as a result of swimming with the Bluetits!) and until I set the group up I hadn’t swum in the English sea without a wetsuit for more years than I care to remember. So, why did I set the group up?
The answer is quite simple, but requires a certain level of honesty…I was lonely. There, it’s down in black and white and it’s something that as adults I feel it’s quite hard for us to own up to. Surely by the time we reach middle-age we should have friendships sorted and be surrounded by a small but loving gang of girlfriends who have seen us through various of life’s ups and downs and who are always on hand to whisk us off for a night out or bring round a bottle of something whenever we’re feeling blue?? Hmmm, somewhere along the line I missed out on that and that’s inevitably led to loneliness.
I don’t imagine I’m the only one who found they didn’t quite fit in at the school gate (god how I hated standing in the school playground!), or who never seemed to quite find other women who shared the same outlook on life. Or, I found women I liked, but they already had the aforementioned group of ‘besties’ and didn’t need an extra friend. Please don’t get me wrong, I have friends, and I know that some of them care very deeply for me and the feeling is mutual, but I am still lonely.
Through my membership of another women’s only group (for those of you who want a bit of adventure in your lives other than swimming, go check this group out at Love Her Wild), I have learnt that women together can be a great thing: a powerful, life-affirming, laughter filled thing and I wanted more of that. When a friend randomly sent me a video she had seen on the internet of some of the Pembrokeshire Bluetits screaming and laughing as they went for a swim, I immediately said “I want some of that!”
I think there are some things that come along in life at exactly the right moment, and that video was one of them. I then invited all my female friends to join me for our first dip. On that first swim back in March this year, 6 other crazy ladies joined me and I will always be grateful to them for being willing to back my crazy idea, because out of it has grown this fantastic group of awesome women who make me laugh, have built my confidence and I’m sure, if I gave a shout out, would be round my house with bottles of wine and cake as quickly as I could shout “tits!!”. And I feel a little less lonely.
Yes, I still have days when I feel lonely, but they are less than they were and I look forward to our swims because the shared experience of freezing your tits off in the sea bonds me to this crazy group of ladies in a way that I hadn’t expected. So for me, it’s less about the actual swimming and more about the camaraderie and I make no apology for that. I know for many it’s the swimming, and that’s fine – I think it’s important that we all get out of the group whatever we need – but for anyone out there who is perhaps less keen on the swimming, don’t be put off from coming because you might get more out of the group than you expected. And there’s always cake!
By Becki Read (Camperbird)