It was not a friendly farewell, it was a forced break-up; maybe that’s why I still cannot stop thinking about it. I really did not want to let it go but they said I had to; that we could not be together; that I could not live with it… So just like that, I found myself separated from my one true love.
For the ones who don’t know, I swam for 13 years and by that I don’t mean 13 seasons, I mean 13 years of my life every single day even when it was off-season. Swimming and I had a love-hate relationship, but then again there can be only so much hate when something is so completely integrated into your life. Wake up at 5 every morning, go to practice, then school, then go to land practice that is followed by another swim practice. My dad wrote his Ph.D. thesis at the very pool I practiced everyday, at the place I made my best and worst memories as well as my best friends and worst enemies. When I got to high school level, double practices were down to 3 times a week and weekend practices got 2 hours longer. College was the lightest swim schedule I’ve had, it was double practice everyday but it did not even seem bad, thanks to my teammates.
When I had my health problems, coach and Caroline were the first ones to visit me at the hospital. When I had my first surgery, coach was the first person I asked for. My teammate was the fist one to send me a teddy bear to my hospital room. People on the team were the first ones to celebrate my return to school. I had many firsts with them, even with the ones I didn’t even know, or the ones I had rivalry with. Every single one of them cheered me on when I tried to keep swimming, needless to say, coach was the first one who believed in me. If I got separation anxiety from quitting swimming, it is because of these gals. I think saying goodbye to that environment was the hardest thing I’ve had to do.
Today that team had their last day with the leagues, the season is done now. These people have been organizing their lives around their practices, eating what the coach says, doing what coach approves of, trying to lead a normal life in the way Clark Kent did: human in class, superhero in the water. Being a student athlete is not easy at all… From what I recall, it was the most difficult thing I ever did.
These people, most of them, have been doing this for 3 or 4 years now. The ones who just got started, freshmen and sophomores, are eager to make it until the end, they are aware that this is like swimming the mile.
Today, thanks to Kaleigh Mullen, I got to watch the MIAA leagues on the last day. Personally, I can’t even think of a more perfect Valentine’s Day. Jorgie, who ruled the 100-200 breaststroke got first place in both events; Natalie, a freshman, kept us on our toes with 200 fly yet still topped her heat; Chloe, again a freshman, easily got the 3rd place; Molly, of course, ruled 100 fly and 100; Lindsay destroyed the mile by getting second place; Kaleigh who was not even on this continent last semester made it to the podium several times while I don’t think Hannah and Klare even left the podium; Michelle, the joker, did fantastic in every single event she was in, like others, she made it to the podium with every event she swam.
See, I swam with these girls. When I saw that Sarah Sheridan and the girls relay team broke multiple records again, I was eating a giant burrito in my PJs, so I just thought to myself: “… And what am I doing with my life?” I am so proud of them that I don’t think words are enough to actually express myself. I’m not going to lie, I might have even teared up watching 200 breaststroke as Jorgie destroyed it. I just thought to myself “How lucky I am that I had the pleasure of practicing and competing with her…”
The guys team was not any different; I watched all of their events on my toes, grabbing Sarah Bettag and screaming “I CAN’T LOOK, WHAT’S HIS SPLIT???” Especially the 400 free relay; I’m not saying it was terrifying, I’m just saying if I didn’t have a heart attack then, I don’t think I ever will again.
I swam with a lot of teams and most treated me like family. This one is special because even though I am not suffering through the practices with them, they still see me as one of them. Not to point fingers, but I don’t think this is something you can see everywhere. If you are an athlete and looking at schools; look no more, Hope is the place for you.