The way things are

Life is a really hard game. The pieces keep falling out of those teeny little cars!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Experience #2

I don't know why I suddenly wanted to write about this. It's really long, and I really don't expect anyone to understand it at all. But it's nice for me to reflect.

I had my first swim lesson when I was three years old. There was a wonderful lady named Nancy who used to come to our house and give swim lessons during the summers. We all loved Nancy--she was so funny and nice, and she was an amazing swimmer. My older brother and sister both started on the city swim team. A few years later, when I was six or seven, I did too.

My brother didn't last long...Swimming just wasn't his thing. But my sister and I continued. I still remember my first day at practice--I was a bit confused because I didn't know any of the swimmer lingo, but it wasn't a problem because Coach Stacy was really nice.

Nancy continued to give us lessons during the summers--they were helpful because she taught us technique now that we were proficient swimmers. She new all the coaches on the city team, so we had fun talking to her about them. She was only with us for a few more summers though; she ended up getting married and moving away. I'm not really sure what happened to her after that, but I think my sister has her address...

So I moved up in the "groups" of the city team. Group 2 and 3 coached by Jason after Stacy moved away. Group 4 was taught by Marvin, but he soon left as well and was replaced by Anthony. I stayed in Group 4 for 2 years I think...I was 10? Something like that. It was during that time that I started getting good. One meet, I had several very successful races--my first three "'A' Times" in one meet--and Anthony commented that I had "torn it up like a Big Dog." The name stuck. My old swimmer friends call me that to this day.

I moved up to the "Jr. Group" probably when I was 11 or 12...Anthony also coached that group. It started getting pretty hard core. We went on travel meets and started practicing on Saturday mornings. It was so much fun. I had so many good friends, and I absolutely loved it.

When I was 13, Anthony suggested I move up to the "Nationals" group. This was as high as you could get on the city team. My sister was in this group, along with all of the older swimmers. I started going to their practices a couple of times a week, and in December I officially moved up.

My first day of practice was December 26. We had had a five day Christmas break. Unfortunately for me, my first day was the first day of the period that had affectionately been dubbed "Hell Week." Hell Week was actually two weeks--the hardest two of the year. Two practices a day, including Saturdays. If you went to at least 22 of 24 practices there were two prizes: 1) Coach would take you out to dinner, and 2) Coach wouldn't yell at you. (Oh, "Coach" means the head coach of the city team--Coach Wedamen. Oooo I get chills when I think of his wrath).

So lucky me, I had to start off my experience in Nationals during Hell Week. And it was hell. Every day I lamented my lost Christmas break. Every day I wondered why I had handed my life over to the swimming gods. I do remember that I swam my first 50-yard no-breather this week though. My sister was so proud. I almost died it was so hard. Didn't do many of those after that. Only on really really really good days...

So now I was in Nationals. I had to go to morning practice once a week. Because they were "dry-land" practices (not in the pool), they were the most painful practices I have ever endured. The day after my first one, I laid in pain on the couch all day. But I kept going. I kept swimming. We went to faster meets. I was getting really good. Coach told me that I could get onto a college team no problem at the rate I was going.

Spring Break. Two practices a day, one on Saturday. A mini Hell Week. I did not enjoy getting up at 5:30 am every day of Spring Break. My friends made it somewhat fun, but I began to realize how sick of swimming I was beginning to get. I began to have thoughts about quitting. I didn't want to swim in college. I was tired. Get up. Go to practice. Go to school. Go to practice. Do homework. Sleep. Every day. I wasn't happy. And I had sort of reached a plateau--I wasn't improving as quickly as I had been a few months earlier.

It took me two months to quit. I mapped it out over and over. Pro's and con's. Who I would affect. How I would deal with such a drastic change in my life. I prayed and prayed. I was scared I would regret it later. I was scared to tell everyone. My coaches, my swimming friends, my sister, my parents...This was such a huge part of my life. I was going places. And I was about to throw it all away.

I broke down one day in the car and told my mom. She told my sister and dad for me. No one else knew. There was a meet on Saturday, and I decided it would be my last. Thursday, I told Coach. I had planned out a huge speech for him, fearing an explosion. But when I finally told him, I stammered and couldn't remember what I had planned on saying. I somehow got it out, and to my surprise, there was no yelling. He just looked at me, said he was sorry I wasn't happy with swimming, and told me that if I ever wanted to come back I was welcome. Wow.

On the way back to the locker room, I ran into one of my best friends. I told him what I had decided. He didn't believe me at first--apparently I was "full of it"--but then he understood. We talked about it the rest of practice. I broke it to all the girls in the locker room. Everyone was pretty much shocked. I had been the last person they expected to quit the team.

I finished out the meet on Saturday, with a bit of sadness, but a lot of relief. I swam for our varsity high school team all four years, which gave me an opportunity to see all my old buddies again. I admit that I did get sad when I saw them moving up and getting better, as I progressively got slower each year. I was sad when I thought about all the fun times I missed out on.

But it wasn't for me. Even if I had stayed with swimming, I'm sure I would have had fun. I don't think there was necessarily a right choice--just a best choice. If I had stayed, I would not have many of the friends I have now; I wouldn't have a lot of the memories and traditions that I have now. I would never have done Sylvan Singers (a whole other story in itself). I probably wouldn't have spent as much time with the harp as I did.

I still consider myself a swimmer at heart. And for people that have swam with me--they know that deep down I'm still good ol' Big Dog.

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