Courtesy: Jamie Lee Hellard
I used to be in my second yr of college, and after over a decade within the pool, I assumed the work was beginning to repay. I had gained my first particular person convention medal and set a faculty file within the course of, been part of our varsity workforce’s first relay medal at a nationwide championship in nearly 10 years, and simply certified for the Olympic Trials. I used to be on high of the world, and couldn’t wait to see what my swimming profession had in retailer subsequent.
Sadly, this was in March of 2020. Everyone knows what occurred after that.
Someplace within the midst of the following lockdowns, on-line lessons, and the turmoil, confusion, and destruction of the pandemic, I misplaced the plot of my swimming profession. It wasn’t that I fell out of affection with the game precisely, I simply all of a sudden knew within the winter of 2021 that I used to be completed. So on a chilly December night time simply earlier than Christmas I walked into the pool I had walked into 1000’s of instances earlier than and advised my coach that I used to be finished. The sensation I had strolling out of the pool that night time was surreal. In my thoughts, I had woken up that morning because the particular person I had been for the final decade, a swimmer, and gone to mattress as another person solely.
It wasn’t as if I used to be fully unprepared for this phenomenon. I had heard tales of athletes who struggled to domesticate a way of id after retirement and had listened to the phrases of my ex-varsity mother and father once they admonished me to not connect my price as an individual to my price as a swimmer. So, I got down to forge a brand new sense of self and to do the issues that the pains of coaching had by no means afforded me. I took up new sports activities, haphazardly educating myself to surf and longboard, operating, and mountain climbing over 110 peaks in a yr. I began touring overseas and dove into work and the completion of my undergrad. I took up new hobbies and dabbled in lots of types of artwork. I used to be comfortable in my new period away from the world of chlorine-soaked hair and 4:30 AM wake-up calls. Really.
And but every time I’d drive by my outdated pool, see a swimming replace flash throughout my newsfeed, watch as my varsity teammates completed their careers, or come across a relic of my swimming days one thing inside me would flip over. My unconscious was overwhelmed with a phantom limb sensation, all too conscious that one thing as soon as necessary, one thing as soon as constant and substantial now ceased to exist. I believed that the a part of me that was a swimmer had vanished on that chilly December night time, and I succumbed to this actuality. That was the tip of it I believed.
And but, I’d paddle for a wave and see how intuitive the water felt to me, like a house I had by no means left.
I’d journey overseas and discover that the locations I used to be most at dwelling have been Island nations surrounded by the ocean, the place I discovered myself at any likelihood I might get.
I’d make a journey with a pal and ex-teammate and we might discover ourselves at a little bit neighborhood pool social kicking on a Sunday morning.
I’d run my first half marathon or full a grueling hike and notice that mantras from days passed by nonetheless danced in my head.
I’d notice that anytime I left town my coaching swimsuit and goggles nonetheless discovered a spot in my bag.
I’d be part of a masters workforce and see that though the numbers on the clock didn’t look the identical, the sensation of chlorine-soaked air hitting my face hadn’t modified.
I’d stand in a ceremony watching my stunning pal get married and assume that the final time I felt so comfortable for her she had simply re-qualified for the nationwide championship.
I’d go to a pool and swim a number of laps and a lady would lean over the lane line and say, you might have a ravishing stroke, you should be a swimmer.
And to my shock, I spotted that she was each proper and flawed. Someplace within the little moments after I hung up my racing cap and goggles I found the reality. I concurrently by no means solely was and but all the time could be, a swimmer.
Jamie Lee Hellard is an ex-varsity swimmer and lifelong water fanatic! She not too long ago accomplished her undergrad and at present works as an Occasion Coordinator for Island Youngsters Most cancers Affiliation. Jamie loves writing, artwork, adventures and the outside. In her spare time, Jamie might be discovered mountain climbing, swimming, browsing, and exploring along with her household, buddies, and two golden doodles!