July 27, 2017
My senior year of high school I did something outside of my norm–I joined the swim team. I did it for two reasons. The first reason was that I liked swimming. The second reason was because a friend of mine said I'd never make it through the season–an interesting challenge.
So here I was, a senior swimming with all the freshman. I wasn't good enough to swim with the upper classmen.
Sometime mid-season, Coach put me in a 500 meter freestyle exhibition. He was nuts. But I didn't say no.
I lined up. I dove in. And I swam. Three pool-lengths in and I was gasping for air. Only seven more laps to go... I couldn't keep my head underwater I was breathing so heavily.
I wanted to stop. It was painful. Everyone could see me struggling–the crowd, the other team, my team. I had given up. The fifth lap was going to be my last lap, but I looked up and there at the end of the pool was a group of my teammates. They were cheering me on. No one ever cheered me on. This race didn't even mean anything but they cheered anyway.
It was at that point that I dug in. Only death would stop me.
I finished the race last, but I finished. And I NEVER, NEVER forgot that event.
It wasn't that I finished. It wasn't that my team cheered me on (though I'm grateful). It was that I decided not to give up, and I didn't. That's what mattered.
I did't like the race while I was swimming it. I hated it. But I did it.
Completion of the race had no bearing on anything. Making it through the season didn't matter either.
What mattered was that I was willing to do it, I agreed to do it, I spent the time and energy doing it, and I finished. This was a character defining moment for me.
I earned the respect of my team. And I earned the respect of myself.
That's why I will keep working at it, even if I don't like it.