I know it feels like it’s never going to end.
Taking the same drive, to that same pool, to practice with the same people every single day. But please listen to me when I tell you to make the most of it, because it’s going to fly by.
It’s the most cliche thing in the world. I know I’m the hundredth person who’s told you, and it probably won’t sink in until you’re sitting there wondering where all the time went, just like I am right now. Don’t take a single moment for granted.
This past summer, all I wanted was college. People would ask me if I was ready for senior year and I told them, no, I’d rather skip right to college. And they told me that it would go by fast. I told them not fast enough. And they said you’ll see.
Now I see.
I see what they mean when they say it goes by in the blink of an eye. And the time I thought I wanted to fast forward through is time I’m wishing I could get back.
As I touched the wall in my last race of my club swimming career, it hit me. I would never race in blue and green again. It was the last time I would ever talk to my coach after a race, and the last time he would do that knuckle punch/fist bump thing he always does. The last drive home from a meet with my mom.
I realize now that I took advantage. I wished away so many hours of quality time with my teammates. I wasted so much time dreading practices and then one day they were over. The life I’ve lived for all these years is almost gone.
Yes, college swimming is going to be an incredible. Probably one of the most life-changing experiences I’ll ever have. After spending such a long time in the same place, change can be so needed. But don’t forget to appreciate everything the sport has given you up until now.
Right after that last race, one of my coaches saw me crying and walked over. As he cried with me, he gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten. He told me to write it down, because this is what I’m going to be telling my kids about one day. This feeling.
He said I’ve lived a life in 11 years that some people won’t even think of. And he’s right. If it hadn’t been for my club team, I would be a completely different person. I would not have the discipline, dedication, or foundation it has given me. I would not know how to truly work hard. Because while these years have presented me with some the most challenging situations, they have made me stronger than I ever thought I could be. And even though I may see some of my performances in the pool as failure, it’s the strength it takes to get back up and keep going that truly proves success. These are life lessons that some people don’t learn until they’re well into their adult years.
For whatever reason, I, for the life of me, can never remember the warm up. My coach could explain it six times and I still wouldn’t know what to do when I jumped in the pool. It didn’t take him long to realize that I would spend the first half of every warm-up trying to figure out what I’m doing before I’d get it right. It has been 6 years since he has said a word about that, because he knows it’s just one of those things I can’t help, no matter how hard I try.
It’s these things that stick out to me when I think about moving on. The fact that my new coach doesn’t know that about me yet. And my new teammates don’t know that I have an irrational fear of leading the lane. And the bumper sticker on my car that spells out the name of a team that I no longer represent. The little things that were so automatic are all going to be gone.
In life, we become so comfortable with our daily routines we begin to forget it was ever different. Or it could be different. And that’s a scary thing.
So if you’re a high schooler who’s counting down the days to graduation, hold on a minute. Even the juniors who are sick of standardized tests and the pressure of impressing college coaches–enjoy it. They said it to me, so I’ll say it to you. It goes by faster than you’ll ever know.