SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send [email protected].
This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from New York University freshman Brandon Kim.
College was supposed to be the most exciting time of my life. Ditching my hometown of Newport News, Virginia, for the mean streets of New York had seemed so appealing months before. But as my time at home shrank, so did my excitement to leave. Everyone around me expected so much of my time in college. Based on the assumptions of others, I was supposed to become a social butterfly, academic overlord, and starter of a multi-billion dollar business all in my freshman year. Obviously, this is hyperbolic, but these expectations literally felt like the weight of the world. Even now, I constantly find myself screaming about the cold reality of who I am in my own head. Put simply, I am just a teenager trying to find his place in the world. Nothing more.
On my first day in college, I ventured from my dorm to the campus of Washington Square Park. I felt so alone and isolated, even amongst the sea of pedestrians. I was lost in New York. Not physically lost, as I have Google Maps, but mentally lost. I longed for familiarity in this new environment. However, I didn’t just crave familiarity; I desired a piece of home. This was the only thing that could restore my confidence and poise. “But what piece of home am I missing?” I thought. I had already found a way to continue my passion for cooking and writing about the culinary arts through school organizations. I had also already found a way to continue my interest in business and finance through clubs and other groups. “So what could I possibly need right now?” It hit me like a kickboard to the butt. I asked myself, “what have I not done for the last four months?” The answer echoed back from the furthest edges of my conscience: “you haven’t swam, dummy”. I needed to touch the water again. I needed swimming.
For the entirety of my past summer, I focused on maintaining a steady job, and mentally preparing myself for years of academic, and professional excellence. I have the philosophy that I don’t want to coast through school; I want to crush it. In order to “prepare” to kill it in college, however, I had to make sacrifices in my life. The first thing to go? Swimming. I decided to forego my last eligible season of summer swimming to “prepare” myself to do well in college. In hindsight, I don’t even know what it means to “prepare” myself to do well. This whole notion seems completely irrational. Regretfully, I can’t go back and reswim my last summer season. But, I know better than to get hung up on what could have been. Swimming teaches its pupils not to look backward, but forward. Following lessons from the past, I knew that to get my bearings in this new environment, I would have to swim again.
Stepping onto the deck of NYU’s Palladium pool, the familiar scent of chlorine greeted me. While one can always stare at pictures of the past to bring back memories, no sense will ever evoke reminiscence more than smell. A lack of other swimmers left a smooth, shiny surface on the pool that was beckoning me to break it. As I slipped into the water, I felt a wave of reassurance wash over me (or maybe it was just how cold the water was). Mentally, I knew that I was not home, and that I was in a pool 300 miles (as the crow flies) from home. Physically, I had no idea that I wasn’t home. It all felt so familiar; like I hadn’t left. Each pull through the water left me more and more relaxed. After only about 1,000 yards, I exited the pool in a refreshed state, and with more head space than I had had all summer.
Immediately, I began to notice a difference in my attitude, energy, and personability. I have started establishing myself within the community. I talk to strangers. I don’t get scared of having to speak in class. I am more driven in my school work as well as my other passions. I realize: I am home again.
Now that my days of intensive training and competition are over, swimming isn’t amongst the things that require large degrees of focus from me. It simply isn’t an everyday affair anymore. Yet, I will always consider it to be an everyday part of me. Water is not unique to my home, rather, it is representative of my home. Perhaps it is the ubiquity of water that makes this so. In which case, water gives the swimmer an innate ability to call any place home because water is universal.
To the swimmers who find themselves in a place of loneliness, lean on swimming for comfort. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Division I athlete, or a former summer league star. We all get lonely. While you might find yourself lost between 3rd and 4th avenue in New York, you will never be lost between the 3rd and 4th lane of a pool.
About Brandon Kim
Brandon Kim is a former high school swimmer at Hampton Roads Academy. He is currently a freshman at New York University.