"Help, I'm drowning!"
The first time I realized I was drowning was in the first year of my police career. Of course I had, on many occasions, gone under before, but I never comprehended my dilemma.
We were at a bar after work, sitting around chatting about the night's events. For some reason that I have long forgotten, I was bad-mouthing somebody about some meaningless issue.
One of my co-workers pulled me aside and asked if I was aware of the drowning man syndrome.
"What are you talking about?" I responded.
"You are emotionally drowning," was his reply.
He said, "When a person is actually drowning in water, they will grab onto anybody they can in order to keep their head above water." He went on to tell me that the person who fears going under will push another person down, climb on top of them, or do anything they can in order to keep their head above the surface regardless of what they do to others. Lifeguards know this all too well, which is why they train to overcome and prevail in order to save others.
People who are emotionally drowning feel a need to pull others down in order to feel better about themselves.
My partner's observation remains with me. Even with that advice still in the recesses of my mind, I occasionally find myself in deep water by stupidly criticizing somebody.
More often, I witness others exhibiting drowning behavior every day. The easy targets of their attacks are often people who are working hard to accomplish something good. So, in order for me to make up for some of my own shortcomings, allow me to elevate some people around me.
To the Clearwater city commissioners: Beach Walk is fantastic! I love what you have done and the vision it took to get there. I look forward to the future and encourage you to stand fast against the naysayers.
To my own Largo City Commission and advisory boards: Thanks for your selfless service. Recent budgetary decisions have been hard and Lord knows you've received an earful. The pay for the hours that you put in is not much, so I recognize and applaud your commitment.
To my own staff: Thank you for your sacrifices and service to our city. I see where your heart is and know full well your dedication.
To the residents of Largo: Times are tough and resources are becoming scarce. Your support of us in the Police Department is appreciated more than you will ever know. I especially appreciate those of you who obey the law and drive responsibly.
To all the volunteers around Pinellas County who tirelessly work to improve the lives of others less fortunate: I am personally amazed at those of you who give of your time, own money and emotional self to make this a better community.
To all the folks in the media: I recognize that you have a duty to report the news and that the news is often bad. I also see and read the stories you put out showcasing the good as well. Catching people doing good is more enjoyable than the opposite and you do a good job at reporting it.
Lastly to my own wife, family and God: I couldn't possibly do what I do if you weren't the flotation in my life. Without your constant support I would have gone under years ago.
Lester Aradi is chief of police in Largo.