The Topic: recall something in your life that seemed terrible at the time, but looking back, brought you something wonderful. A positive from a negative experience.
I look at the clock
I don't have to let the alarm go off, because like always, I am up. My body knows the drill. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, throw on a pair of sweats and the Smurf blue parka and walk across the empty quiet campus to the side door of the Natatorium.
The smell of chlorine hits like a punch in the face as I walk across the pool deck. The water lies still, a strangely eerie shade of blue in front of me. Down the dingy stairway into the locker room I walk. Stripping down into my practice suit, I grab my cap and trusty black goggles, and head back up the stairs. My teammates trickle in, following the same path as I and together we meet on deck. Some curl up on the floor, attempting to catch one last minute of sleep, while others like meet, just stare aimlessly into the blank pool.
6:00 on the dot, I dive in.
So goes four long years of college, spent in a cocoon of chlorinated water swimming lap after lap, hour after hour, going no where.
Why did I do this?
Why did I walk on to a Division one team?
Why did I stick with it?
At 16, I remember that moment.
I could feel my heart sink as they introduced Her as a member of the National team. She had always been just a little bit better then me and received the accolades and attention I so desired. I took my hands and starting wringing them into the folds of my blue striped skirt as I anticipated the car ride home, knowing the details on the pending conversation since my mom and I had had it before. I stabbed my pasta with the fork and tried to casually finish my dinner without making any eye contact with my mom. I could have been better, maybe even great, if I had been given the same amount of attention. Instead, I decided at that moment, I was done. Instead of putting any energy into getting their approval, I would wait and see what I could accomplish on my own.
Four years later, I stand on the block, and look to my left. She is there, no longer a teammate, but now an opponent. The 500 yard freestyle, an event I had swam hundreds of times before, but never with the urgency I feel now. My stomach is turning and my legs are jelly. I take a deep breath in, and step up onto the block making sure to glance over at Her one time.
I can do it.
I grab the block and as the buzzer goes off and I dive into the water. The next five plus minutes are a blurr, except for the last 15 yards. I look to my side and she is no where to be seen. My thighs are burning as I kick as hard as I can, gasping with each breath as I come closer to the final touch. I throw my head down, forgoing breath to make it to the end and slam my hand into the wall. Lifting my head I look to my left.
She is not there.
No, she is still swimming.
I beat her.
I beat her well.
It was worth it, all of it was worth it.