Breakup and Makeup

The first 20 years of my life, I was a swimmer. After high school, I had the privilege to compete at the collegiate level. To be given a scholarship and eventually be named a team captain. Not to dwell too much on the breakup, but during the last meet of my career, my athletic world unwound. I swam worse than I’d ever swum, I had failed my team and myself leaving, and I was devastated because of it.

After that I stopped swimming. It’s been 6 years.

And I really shouldn’t have. It was only one meet.. But I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t forget the weight of anticipation nor the countless hours of preparation that went into that one moment. Years of obedient devotion vanished.

Swimmers are a rare breed and we like this about ourselves. There is no “off season”. We were finished with our first practice of the day before most morning alarm clocks wake the slumbering.  We speak in code; in sets and times. We are fixated on time… minutes, seconds, tenths of a second, hundredths of a second.  At the end of a race, all faces raised to the clock.  Eyes would never drift too long from its steady pace.

The other day I was reading the novel, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and something he wrote really resonated with me. He relates a character’s sudden fallout with her sport to what it’d be like to lose your religion. How all of a sudden something that is your one constant in life, that you devote everything to, loses all of its significance.  I must have reread those few paragraphs at least ten times, because what he was able to describe I haven’t been able to verbalize. Maybe what happened during that championship I became a converted a “nonbeliever”? Talk about terrible timing.

A few weeks ago I got back in the pool. In retrospect, its pretty ridiculous how I allowed all of this to get in the way of something that was so much a part of me. I love the water. As a girl I would swim for hours and never tire. I love the sensation of water washing over your hand. It reminds me of rolling down a car window on a crisp morning, arm extended, breaking the cool air with your fingers. I’m getting back to that. Watering down what was an extremist’s devotion to the simplicity of first love. Finding my faith again in swimming. Finding faith in myself.


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  1. […] Other than that, I really liked reading this book. It’s one of those books I stayed up late to read even though the baby is cutting 4 teeth, and she’s bound to wake up any minute screaming. But it was worth the sleep deprivation.  I think Franzen brings to light a great many social issues that need to be discussed. I also think most people can relate to at least one situation or one character’s psychology. I know I did. […]

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