Standing on the block, about to dive in, you are wound up in a “fight or flight” response. You feel tense and nervous as you listen for the beep that will signal your dive. However, every one of those feelings disappears when you dive into the water. They are replaced by a prevailing calm as you face your race.
That’s how I have felt before every race in my life. Without a doubt, that familiar feeling of clear calm in the first few seconds underwater is my favorite thing about swimming.
When I was four, I learned how to swim in the pool by my daycare center. My mom knew that I missed her terribly during the day, so a few times a week, she volunteered to come in and teach us how to swim. Not only did this make “little me” happy, but a whole bunch of preschoolers learned a potentially life-saving skill. As part of a “swim family,” I have associated the sport with family and friendship from the very beginning… and through my siblings and my mom, I have always had my own little swim team by my side.
What started then was a lifelong commitment. I was a fish in the water, and swimming remained a constant in my life for the next 18 years. In that time span, I have rediscovered my limits many times–as an athlete, coach, and volunteer instructor. The most memorable feelings are those of excitement after reaching personal goals, and those of bitter disappointment after falling short. However, my time as a coach was the most rewarding. My memories of swimming are associated with friendships, laughter, and team spirit–time well spent indeed.
This past weekend, I had my first home meet of the season, the first meet of my senior year. When I walked onto the Werblin pool deck as a freshman, I had no idea that I would stick with Rutgers Club Swimming for so long, but here I was, after three years of practices and meets. During my first few months of college, I wanted to try something new. I tried other clubs–I even joined Ballroom Dancing, a club filled with lots of radiant, vibrant people that loved to dance with all that they had. However, after a few months, I realized that I was not one of those people. Oddly enough, I felt more exposed wearing a sparkling dress on the dance floor than I ever have in a swimsuit and cap.
As a senior, I stood on the pool deck last weekend and felt nostalgic for all the times and laughs I had with my friends over all my years of swimming. There was that one time I slipped on a banana peel and landed flat on my back in front of five teams. That other time, we had a whole Olympic-sized stadium of people do the wave and the roller coaster during a thunderstorm. And then there were every-day moments: singing and dancing to “Happy” on the way home, waiting for my hair to freeze as I waited by the bus stop after practice, finishing a hard set, chatting on the wall between swims. These are the moments I know I’ll remember, and I’m trying to hold on to them as tightly as I can.
The club team in college is not as competitive as the teams I swam on growing up, but that makes it more dear somehow. Swimming isn’t our only priority, but we love to spend time in the pool and with each other. It makes me deeply sad that I may never be part of a team like this again, but I am happy to know that many of the friendships I have made will last a long time–some, perhaps, for as long as I live. This is my vow to make the best of what I have and not get bogged down in senior worries. If only I could swim to class, then my life would be complete.