We choose not to think about it. It's hard to comprehend the countless hours we've dedicated, the accomplished goals, the unaccomplished goals, the heartbreak, and the victory. We try not to let the highs get too high or the lows get too low. Our parents have spent likely too much money on equipment, training and pasta dinners for carb overloads.
While our dreams transpired from being an Olympic gold medalist to somehow making it to the college level our passion was unwavering.
Passion is the thing that never went away.
When I was 6 years old, I never considered exactly why I dedicated my afternoons and weekends to swimming back and forth over and over again. Every day, I jumped on the block high off of ring pops and pixie stick sugar and raced my heart out for a blue ribbon.
As I got older, the blue ribbon wasn't enough so I stopped eating candy before my events and even started drinking some water before I got on the block (I think I even warmed up a time or two). When I started high school life was no longer as cookie-cutter as it was for me at 6 years old and I began to question the three hours I spent at the pool every afternoon. I even began to realize that football games, date nights out with the 16-year-old who had a car and girls nights with my friends consistently trumped the concept of swim practice.
My progress reflected my new found interests and I quickly began to loathe the sport that was once my very reason for waking up in the morning. So why didn't I quit? I honestly have no idea and I couldn't justify it if I tried. I hated everything about the sport but I couldn't bring myself to throw in the towel completely. I could blame it on my coaches, I could blame it on my parents and I could blame it on the 16-year-old boy with a car.
Really, the only person I can blame is myself.
In the midst of my highly hormonal teenage years, I was more than capable of identifying anything and everything that could possibly take the blame for my increasing times, destroyed mindset and negative attitude. I hated my mother for forcing me to go to practice every day. I hated my coaches for not believing in me. I hated my teammates for not hating swimming as much as I did.
Looking back, my mother still saw me as the 6-year-old girl with a ring pop in one hand and a blue ribbon in the other and she blamed herself for my depleting passion and was desperate for it to return. If I were my coaches, I probably wouldn't have believed in me either because I surely didn't believe in myself. As for my teammates, many of them started swimming much later than I did, and I now understand why they may not have had the same resentment and struggles that I was feeling at the time. I realize now that all of these issues stemmed from one major internal issue: I didn't believe in myself.
I tried to fool myself into it a few times. I'd take a deep breath, climb on the block, tell myself I could make it through the race and touch the wall without looking up at the clock because I already knew the result was not one I wanted to see. I let my times reflect my self-worth which was ignorant because it is virtually impossible to compete well when you do not believe in yourself.
I pretended to let the comments about my times being slower roll off my shoulders, but they etched themselves in my mind and echoed through every race I swam. I pretended not to care that my coach forgot to get my splits on my race, but for some reason the next time I raced I didn't feel particularly inclined to put my best foot forward. I was desperate to love the sport that had once been the source of my happiness, and the heartbreak that came with my new found hatred for it was overbearing.
I was trying so hard to love it, but I was struggling to make it through.
There are days where I do not touch the times I did as a 12-year-old girl and there are days where I choose a date night over swim practice. Sometimes, I even turn off my alarm in the morning and pretend that I forgot to set it just because I don't feel like getting out of bed for practice.
There are meets where I add 10 seconds and there are meets where tears fill my goggles in the warm-down pool. There are coaches who still don't believe in me and there are "friends" who still laugh at my times. But, there are coaches who do believe in me and there are friends who do celebrate my success and unfortunately, both of these realities go hand in hand.
So no, I am no Olympic gold medalist and in three short years, swimming will likely just be a memory of mine. But, it will be a memory I cherish and a memory I love and I couldn't ask for much more than that.