Finger Lakes swimmer relates tremendous tale of transformation

On Wednesday, Dec. 5, Kathryn FitzSimmons, a Geneseo alumna, retired 8th grade English teacher, and self-proclaimed mermaid spoke to students on her inspiring experiences in turning her life around for the better.

To demonstrate her new vigor for life, she has swam across all 11 Finger Lakes which include lakes Seneca, Cayuga, Canandaigua, Keuka, Conesus, Owasco, Otisco, Hemlock, Candice, and Honeoye. Swimming across the Finger Lakes was a triumph for her soul, and a message of inspiration that she hopes others will heed to.

Speaking to a crowd of Geneseo students and townspeople, FitzSimmons revealed personal information about her life, goals, obstacles and triumphs in hopes of encouraging everyone to accomplish all that they are capable of.

When she ended her unhappy 24-year marriage to an alcoholic, FitzSimmons weighed almost 300 pounds and was stuck in a rut of depression and obesity. She was a yo-yo dieter, emotional eater, and caregiver to everyone but herself.

Describing herself in that period of time as "uncomfortable, overwhelmed, depressed and inadequate," FitzSimmons realized that she only had about 30 more years to walk the earth. It was that defining moment of realization that woke her up to take better care of her body and her life.

Reaching 55 was a turning point in her life. FitzSimmons explained that it is not darkness that we are afraid of, it is our light; we are fearful of our full potential. Not wanting to fall into that trap, she began to turn her life around.

Thinking out of the box, she began experimenting with better food, thinking of it as "fuel for the body" and nothing else. With the addition of exercise, she began to lose weight and gain confidence. This new change was not enough, however. She went on to try snowshoeing, kayaking, polar dipping (jumping into water during the middle of winter) and of course, swimming.

After completing her goal of swimming all 11 Finger Lakes, FitzSimmons described herself as "joyful, unafraid, secure, strong and even a little sassy." There was no more "fat girl," she said.

According to FitzSimmons, who didn't specify how long her project took her, swimming the Finger Lakes was like a metaphor for life. It took training, planning, hard work, dedication and fun. Learning from the metaphor, FitzSimmons shared some important lessons.

"You have to expect the unexpected and have patience," she said. Even with obstacles, the rewards are worth the work.

Ending her presentation by stating "I was aimless in life, now I have a purpose, " FitzSimmons is happy to lead a now passionate and focused life. When asked by an audience member about the future, FitzSimmons revealed that there would be many more exciting adventures for her, including the start of a possible next project: walking around all the Finger Lakes.