Courtesy: Emma Clare May
Before this letter begins, I wanted to share my inspiration for this. In the past 365 days, life has changed drastically for me. Even more so in the past three months, as I’ve moved to college and started a whole new life. This letter I wrote to myself, I wish I could have given to myself last year. One year ago, I was at my low, exhausted, and swimming felt like a chore rather than my passion. This letter, I didn’t only write for myself, but for other swimmers to show that it will get better. And it sounds cliché and that the time will never come, but it will get better. I hope this brings some joy and some hope into your story.
Dear last year me,
It’s safe to say you are going through the trenches right now. Life is nowhere near what you want it to look like, and you’re feeling exhausted, sad, and unmotivated all the time. The smallest things in life take a huge toll on you, and you don’t know how it could ever get better. You feel hopeless, and you don’t know how you could possibly regain those feelings of hope and energy again. Crazy as it sounds, I’m here to tell you, that in a year, although that seems a million years away, you will be at peace. The college that you are so thrilled to adventure to is everything you hoped it would be and more.
My heart aches that you are not loving swimming at all right now. My heart breaks that the motivation is non-existent, because I know all you want right now is to be you again. It pains me to see that all the work that you put into this sport does not seem to be coming out happy on the other side. The meets you’re qualifying for, and doing just awful in, are not helping your situation. And during those meets, when all you felt was frustration, I’m going to tell you something, that your coach told you, that has stuck with you since. “You just climbed a ladder, and it took you many years, and the top of the ladder was this meet. Now that you climbed that ladder, there’s a new one to climb up. Right now, you’re at the bottom of your new ladder. You just need to learn how to climb up it again.” That perspective, that short speech he gave you, brought back an inkling of motivation, and it continued to grow over the next two months, and more after spring season ended. That coach is going to get you through so much that’s coming in life in the spring and summer. He will change your life, and as the summer continues, practices will feel less like a chore, and your passion will spark again. That quote was your reality check, that was the point that starts bringing you back up. You took a reset for three weeks after champs, didn’t work out, didn’t touch the water, you came back when you realized you missed swimming again. That comeback in April, YOU CAME BACK, and when May hits, it became the best training month of not just your year, but your career. It takes time. Find those pockets of joy. Those quotes that seem meaningless at the time, could turn out to be your saving grace.
Now I’m not saying that the past three months in college have been a piece of cake and life is all sunshine and rainbows. There is a huge grind that comes with this. I know the word ‘grind’ to you right now makes you feel scared; but in your new environment, the grind feels a little bit easier, because you have a massive support system to back you up and cheer you on. You have been dying for a change in scenery, people, and the search for independence right now is on a high. In this year, you learned how to advocate for yourself, to speak your truth, and also not hide what is hurting you because it takes a weight off your shoulders. You brought that into college so it could be your time to fly. You have been blessed with opportunities that you have gotten to take advantage of, and have had the ability to make dreams you’ve had a reality. You have the freedom to make choices best for you, join a variety of groups, and enrich aspects of your well-being. You even started seeing a therapist, and it has brought you a lot of peace! And I’m here now to tell you, that you are so happy with the choice you made to come here. Yes, your science class is brutal, but if I’ve learned anything here, I am capable of so much more than I ever believed I was.
Training and education-wise, your motivation is back! You are happy again! You are living your best life right now. After being in a small school community for your whole life, the large lecture halls and diverse campus community are exactly what you needed—a fresh start. After being on the same club team for 11 years, switching to a new program has definitely been an adjustment. But something you love is that everything is new! You have the motivation and desire to work incredibly hard because it’s newness you’ve never gotten to do before. There’s also some unexpected news. Deadlifts and distance free are part of your life now. Two things you used to despise, but are now a happy change of pace in your life! Your new coaches have your back, and the ones that have had an immense impact on you, still do, and you continue to update them. They are so thrilled for you and your new journey.
Like I said earlier, the little things that coaches have told you in your past are motivating you in your new pool, team, meet lineup, school work, everything. I hope you see, that it is going to get better for you. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself, take care of your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Do something every single day to take care of you. Doing one thing for you every day has centered you, and has helped develop you into a stronger individual.
As you can see, the past year was the most challenging one yet, but a year later, I’m writing you this letter to tell you, it gets better! Not only are you happy and peaceful, you are thriving on a new level. As your coach here in college tells you, “your best is good enough,” truly embrace that as you walk through life every day. Even when times are brutal, the best you can give in your day, in whatever you do, is good enough. Be patient with yourself. You will make it through this. And before you know it, you’ll be where I am today, smiling because I am proud that you did make it through, and you’re stronger on the other side.
You are loved! Always remember that!
You can and you will! You have the strength to climb this new ladder!
Emma Clare May
UConn Class of 2027
Emma May is a freshman at the University of Connecticut and is a breaststroke specialist. She’s currently studying communications and is looking to double major in journalism in her four years. “Go huskies!!”