Courtesy: Kalina Emaus
Editor’s Note: Kalina Emaus finished her college career on Saturday. She made it until Monday before getting in the water again for a swim.
Five thousand six hundred thirty five days we met in the Hudsonville High School pool. Somehow in the midst of all those around you, you were able to call me and make me feel special and free. I cannot believe it is time to hang up our rainbow goggles with our favorite bungee strap (because we know I still don’t know how to tighten my own goggles some 16 years later), to put the ninety some swim caps we collected in a memory box, and to hang up the swim suits that revealed my personality to those around me and also identified me as being a part of a team. We’ve had thousands of experiences, some good, some horrific, some overwhelming joyful, and some too horrific to remember. At the end of the day you have taught me how to have the time of my life.
I came across inspiration of what you meant to me from a graduation speech from Jaclyn Marston. When I think of you the only word that comes to my mind is beauty. Through all the years, pools, towns, teammates, coaches, races, experiences, you taught me nothing will ever be the same. We cannot all have passion, perspective, aspirations, experiences, gifts, or even stories to the same swim meet. We have to look around and appreciate our differences because it ultimately is what makes this world worth exploring. Swimming, you have given me the greatest opportunity to grow outside myself and appreciate what gifts others have beside me. It is the teammates who swim the races I can’t and bring forward special gifts that I do not possess that make those around me better. It’s the teammates who made you laugh to the point of tears when you think of the memories but also stretched you to look at things in a different light. It is the coaches who pushed us to our breaking point only to show us strengths we never knew we could have. It is the teachers who I respect immensely who would come in early to let us take a test or re-teach a lesson because we were gone for a meet. But they never stopped there as I’d always see them Friday night sweating at the YMCA cheering us all on. It is the parents who relentlessly cheered us on and selflessly gave so much of their life for our dreams. It is the concession stand workers who supplied food, and for those of us with medical issues I could not be more thankful for the quick access to sugar you gave us. Thank you Mrs. Bush for the best pasta salad and hot dogs. It is those who set up for our meets and took down, cleaned the pool over the years so we’d have a nice place to call our home. It is the mentors and friends who would make time for us despite our crazy schedules and sometimes even fed us which is basically like feeding seven hungry cows. It is the kids who make us signs that wish us good luck, and the love from an incredible community. It is this and more that taught me the beauty of this life. I want to say thank you to those who were apart of our story.
Although you brought me some of the greatest highs you have also brought me some of the darkest of lows. You have shown me we have to have a very strong “why” to what we do every day because sometimes things get hard, and only get harder and all you can do is hold onto that why. As I reflect on my career there are many regrets that I have with our relationships. Experiences I wish I could relive again because I didn’t enjoy the moment enough. I wish I could give someone one more hug after an incredible swim or set because there really is enough sunshine for everyone. There are conversations I wish I could have again and an attitude or a work ethic I wish I’d worked harder at developing earlier in my career. I could let these regrets hang over my head forever but I know you wouldn’t want that. You’d want these to be used as teachable moments of what to differently with what I do in my next career. You’ve shown me it is going to be a fight to live an interesting, inspiring life that can make any kind of difference but it is a fight worth fighting for. With that said, I could not be more thankful to have had in a way a mini career at 21 that taught me countless lessons, showed me strength and weaknesses within myself and others I didn’t know could be possible. Beyond myself, you’ve also shown me incredible things others are capable of doing. This taught me look to find the best in others and to never stop caring about people as we are all filled with unlimited, untapped potential.
At the end of the day I always knew this day would come. The goal of swimming was not to swim forever in a program, it was to aspire to create a legacy that will last forever. At the end of the day, I can only hope our story left something behind for the next person who falls in love with the beauty of the water and for all of those who will call themselves yours. I am so glad they will have someone as beautiful as you in their lives and hearts wherever they go and for whenever they need someone. Until I’m home looking into your crystal clear blue eyes again, I thank you for giving me the time of life.
Forever and always, I love you.
About Kalina Emaus
A native of Hudsonville, Michigan, Kalina is currently a student-athlete at Northern State University. Naturally curious geography geek who outside of the pool loves traveling, collecting license plates, running, and volunteering. She has dreams to become a teacher and aspires to make this world a happy place.