You have made me cry a million times. You’ve made me think to the point of mental exhaustion, and you’ve broken down my body. You’ve made me immune to Advil.
But at the same time, you’ve made me smile a million and one times. You’ve taught me how to have a winner’s mindset and how to fight through physical pain. You’ve taught me how to help myself.
It’s no question you are one of the hardest sports out there. Us swimmers need to be fit, but not just in our legs or our arms. Everywhere. Your training is relentless. The clock has no mercy. It won’t hear our excuses.
And even when we’re positive and we put all of ourselves into you, sometimes races still don’t go our way. Because mental strength is just as important. We have to know how to make our bodies do exactly what it needs to do, at exactly the right moment. And if we make one mistake, it could cost us half a second. And half a second could mean everything.
As much as you have broken down my confidence, you’ve built it right back up. You have enabled me to discipline myself like very few people in this world ever will. You have taught me how to prioritize. But, most importantly, you have taught me how to keep pushing when the going gets tough. And it took me a long time to realize how strong you have made me.
Throughout my decade as a swimmer, I’ve watched so many people quit. I’ve asked myself why I swim. But the answer was always simple: I just can’t give it up.
Even though it’s been a few years since I’ve swum a lifetime best, I’ve come too far to quit. You’ve planted a strong desire in me to lower the number on the board. It’s never gone away, and I don’t think it ever will. That desire is what makes us true athletes. The relentless, never-good-enough attitude. Always wanting to be better. Thank you for making me always want to be better.
You are a huge part of who I am. I’ve never seen another sport that is as complex as you are. You’re a team sport, but if we mess up, it’s on us, and only us. You’re physically challenging but you also force us to be in incredibly good mental shape. And nothing teaches dedication like staring at the same black line for 15 hours a week.
I held onto you because no matter how much you broke me down on the pool deck, you’ve made me so much stronger emotionally, intellectually, and academically. And I wouldn’t trade that strength for anything.
Thank you for presenting me with my most testing moments, and forcing me to be strong. Thank you for allowing me to make mistakes, and making me realize that it’s okay.
Thank you for being my home. My safe haven. My happy place.
I love you so much.
A Forever Indebted Swimmer