“Swimmers, step up!” announces the official. My adrenaline is pumping as I climb onto the starting block. At the sound of the buzzer, the competition begins. As I glide through the water, I feel like I’m on top of the world. Swimming is my high. Yet, I never fully appreciated this sport until last year when I was forced to quit.
It was the summer before high school and I was ecstatic to be a member of a legendary high school swim team that had won national championships and countless state titles. The team was a family, a family of 90 teenage girlsand a few coaches. We became closer than sisters, and the coaches were our trusted mentors. I loved that team.
A third of the way through the swim season, excruciating pain started shooting through my right shoulder. The doctor was puzzled and dubbed the source a mystery. He instructed me to take 15 ibuprofen a day, then paused uneasily. I squirmed in my seat, anxiously awaiting his next words. Finally, he uttered softly, “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to stop swimming. There’s no other choice.” I was horrified! How could he expect me to quit the team? How in the world was I supposed to leave my beloved swim sisters? Swimming was my life.
In the following weeks, I was numb with despair. I had been brutally thrown out of my second family and became a foggy memory to the girls who once cared about me so much. Being the outsider was torture. While I gazed jealously from the sidelines, they improved. Not a minute passed when I didn’t long to swim.
During that time, I reflected on my life and learned valuable lessons. For years, swim practice had been part of my life. It never occurred to me that it was a privilege I could lose. Not everyone is blessed with the ability to swim, and the swim club fees made it expensive, too. I had been so ignorant! At long last, I realized how lucky I had been.
This experience completely changed my attitude. My pain has subsided and I am back in the pool with my teammates but now I never complain about the grueling practices. I give 110 percent every single day, because who knows? Tomorrow it could be taken away from me forever. I’ve grown to appreciate my golden opportunity. This journey has been a true swim lesson and is more important than anything my coaches have taught me about technique. It’s important to recognize how valuable every factor of life is while it’s still here.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.