I’ve been watching you swim in the Olympics for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I would always be excited to watch you race and the smile on my face when you won reached ear to ear. It made me wish the Summer Olympics happened more than once every four years, but then again, if that were the case, it wouldn't have been as special to watch you race.

Growing up, I always thought of you as a great swimmer, and you are. Anyone anywhere in the world knows that. You’ve proved it time and time again. You are definitely the greatest to ever dive off the blocks. But now, I’ve realized that you are so much more than that.

You are a beacon of hope.

We all go through hard times and rough patches and some people feel as if they will never come out of them, or that they are all alone. They decide to just give up, believing that it will be easier and that it is what is best. Those people are standing on the edge of a cliff and they have a choice to make. They can either fling themselves over the edge, or they can hold their head high, turn around, and walk away and rebuild their life into something better. You chose the latter, and I just want to say that I am extremely proud of you because it is not an easy decision to make. Walking away isn’t an easy thing to do, but because of that, you give people hope. You have the potential to be the light they are looking for when they are in a dark place in their lives. By sharing your story, you have made it known that those people are not alone in their battle.

You got to a dark point in your life, but you bounced back. You became better, stronger, and most of all, happier with your amazing fiancé Nicole and beautiful baby boy, Boomer. You walked away from that cliff edge and you never looked back and because of it, you have made your life better and you have become happier and you have so much to be proud of beyond your accomplishments in the water.

Some people probably don’t understand how the most decorated Olympic swimmer could ever get to this point, but the truth is, it doesn’t matter who you are. Anyone can reach that point. Anyone can feel that way. But anyone can come back from it.

Your story, it gives people hope. It helps them to believe that if you can come back from it better than ever, then so can they. It makes them realize that bad things happen but that they can always overcome them. It helps them to learn and to realize that there is more to life and that they have so much more to live. Your story, you hope, it gives them strength. Strength to continue to fight a battle even when they are tired, strength to make their lives better, strength to become the person they want to be and most of all, strength to find their happiness.

So Michael Phelps, I thank you. Not only did you teach me the importance of hard work and sportsmanship, but you also taught me how to find strength and light when I feel weak and surrounded by darkness.