I love being a swimmer and everything that comes with it— the sound of splashing water, early morning alarms, cold water, the hot sun, a yelling coach at 6AM, land training, the loud whistles, the horn signaling the swimmers to start, cheering crowds, car rides, sleepovers and all those after–competition McDonald’s runs. This is a lifestyle that I have grown to love. When you do something everyday for more than half your life it becomes so mundane that you think it can go on forever, but even the greatest stories reach that last page, last sentence, last word, with you saying “all good things come to an end.” I honestly never thought that the time for me to hang up my competitive swimming suits for good would come— or at least come this soon. I did not realize that I have reached the point wherein I would be counting down the training sessions, competitions, laps, strokes and kicks until I reach out to touch the wall on that final lap.
Before going any further, allow me to share my “swimming story.” I began competitive swimming when I was eight years old but it was only when I was eleven years old that I started to really take swimming seriously. I made swimming my life. I was the type of girl who would be asked to go to sleepovers and gimmicks but would not even bother asking my parents because I would rather swim. I hated going to the doctor, even when I knew I had to because I did not want to hear him say, “you can’t swim for a week.” I was the girl who would cry when I did not get my goal time, I was the girl who just constantly wanted to improve, no matter what. Sounds kind of psycho, right? But I loved to swim. I loved being in the water. I loved the feeling of working so hard and seeing the fruits of my labor. I loved the “good tired” feeling after a really hard workout. I loved talking to my coach about swimming and anything under the sun, really. I loved being around my teammates. Swimming filled and fueled my everyday. When I felt sick, sad or disheartened, I knew the only thing that could make me feel better was to be in the water. It was my stress reliever. Being such a shy and reserved person, swimming was my comfort zone. I felt most myself when I was in the pool, with my coach and with my teammates. As I grew older I would question why I kept doing the same time thing everyday year after year, no matter how tiring some days got. In my freshman year in college I wanted to quit swimming. It has been 10 years into the sport and I felt like swimming was holding me back from so many things. I wanted to see what else I could do beyond the water. But every time I said that I would quit, I would always find myself back in the pool. I loved my teammates, I loved my coaches, and I loved the sport (sometimes too much for my own good) that I could not just simply walk away from it. So each year that followed, despite my aching body and tired spirit my heart always led me back to the pool.
Just at the start of this year, I decided that I have swam the last lap of my life. As an incoming college senior I felt like the world outside the pool was inching closer and closer towards me and I had to give something up. At that time, I felt like that something was swimming. I knew I was not going to be a swimmer forever so why not “practice” life without it. I stopped training for two whole months and in those two months I realized one thing: the only thing that remained constant despite my fickle mind is my love for swimming. And just like the past few years of telling myself that I was going to quit, I found myself back in the pool.
When I first thought about the silence that came after the noise swimming has made in my life, I was scared and anxious. All throughout high school I was “Andee Swimmer”, “fishy”, “little mermaid”, among others. I did not know who I would be without swimming. I was scared to lose the one thing that I felt made me who I am. I got so caught up with the thoughts of what will happen after, “who am I” and “who will I be” that I forgot to appreciate where I was treading in the waves now. I realized that when you pour so much of your heart into something, it becomes such a big part of you— a part of you that can never be taken away. Looking forward, maybe five or ten years from now I will still be the little girl who fell in love with the water. There will always be parts of you that you can never take away no matter how far you put yourself from it— and that is not a bad thing. It does not mean you cannot let go. It just means that it is who you are. It seems that the one thing that I thought was holding me back from knowing myself more was the one thing that drives me to keep searching, learning and growing. So what will I do when the noise finally fades and the silence sets in? I guess I have not gone that far to have the answer to my question but I know there’s a world out there, waiting for me to jump right into it. For now, I will remain hopeful and excited to see where the waves will take me this time.