While mad cleaning the apartment tonight (thanks to a 5pm cup of coffee and destroying the kitchen in an attempt to make chili), I found an old journal from my sophomore and junior years of college.I’ve kept some form of a journal since I was ten, and while I haven’t written much since Vietnam I always enjoy going back and reading through my old thoughts and emotional roller coasters. That’s the thing with writing a journal (that’s different than writing on a public platform)- you only really write about the highs and the lows. There is no in between. I spent a good 45 minutes tonight reading through the moments that, at the time, were the world’s biggest heartbreak or the best I’ve ever felt.
It’s funny how you think nothing changes day in and day out, but when I look back at four years ago I’m shocked by some of the things that passed through my mind and onto paper. “Nothing was ever accomplished through negative self talk” I wrote in March of 2012 (I
probably definitely didn’t come up with that). I felt like every missed dive was a failure, and the only way to succeed was to repeatedly run into the same brick wall over and over.
Despite reading some things that made me feel sorry for what I let myself believe, I was able to read the transformation. I was able to read through learning all of those “big girl” dives, every motivating thing my coach told me when I couldn’t see the positives. It’s been an incredibly reminder, and somehow exactly what I needed to see. This weekend, I’m competing exhibition at a college meet. And I’m SO nervous. Like more competition anxiety than I’ve had in years. I’m not even sure of what I am afraid of, but reading through how I got through it before has been a lifesaver.
I have been diving since I was 15 years old, and I have fallen in and out of love with this sport before. There have been countless moments over the past several years that, at the time, I’m convinced would be the definition of me. Results that, in my mind, outlined a career, determined my worth, and dictated how I felt about the sport. I must be one of the only people in history to come ninth on EVERY single event at the Big Ten Championships. They took 22 people to the 2012 Olympic Team Trials when I came 23rd at Nationals. And yeah, I broke my foot 10 days before my final Big Tens, when I was in the best diving shape of my life. I have missed more dives than I care to admit, and yet I choose to keep diving after college when most people take the opportunity to pursue new endeavors. But I am stubborn, and I am not done. I may not have had a “real” competition since January, but doesn’t mean I am out. When I missed Trials in 2012, I committed with my coach to train for the 2016 Trials. I have no illusions of cracking the top eight divers nationally, as I’m just trying stay healthy and improve, not make another 5 years of corrections in a few months. It’s about finishing what I started.
It’s hard to train after college- I feel old. I get sore more often, random pain in my shoulders and wrists that weren’t there when I was 19. While I still train with the team, I don’t compete alongside them (this exhibition event an exception). I’m focused on my job, grad school applications, and paying bills on time. Diving is not my whole world anymore, and that took some adjustments. I trained twice a day for seven years of my life, and now I only train in the afternoons. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, which turned into me thinking I was delusional for wanting to keep training. I didn’t feel like I was enough, like I wasn’t “good enough” to keep training, that I didn’t have the “right”. I didn’t feel any sense of urgency, any passion. Things took a turn when I acknowledged that I was in a horrible place, and I started talking about it. Instead of taking a leadership role as a college senior, I turned to the college team to remind me what I loved about the sport. I turned to my best friends and told them of my perceived inadequacies. I turned to my coach and said “I don’t know what I’m doing”, and like he has always done, he brought me back to life. I turned to what I have done in the past, and looked for what I always loved about this sport.
In February of 2013, before my junior year Big Tens, I wrote “No matter what happens over the next week, you’ll be fine. You will still love this sport and this sport will love you back”.
Today, nearly three years later, I am giving myself a gentle reminder. I do not need to be nailing every single dive to love this sport. I do not need to be the “best” or “peaked” to love this sport. There is no score or quantifiable measure of success that gives me the “right” to keep training as a post-grad. I don’t need to justify training once a day, or make up excuses. I don’t have to score a personal best every time to recognize that I am still living the dream. I have acquired more joy from being a Hawkeye then I ever did being the “best” on a given day. I can’t think of a single dual meet that I remember my rank or score, but I remember tearing up my senior year thinking about how much I would miss it. I remember the opportunities I’ve had through this sport, and the friends I’ve made from other teams. I remember cheering till I gave myself a headache. I remember crying when we all took our last dives as collegiate athletes. That’s what falling in love with this sport again means to me. It’s time to remind myself that flipping through the air is a blast, that even on days I don’t love my body I’m thankful it does the ridiculous things I ask it to, and that the relationships formed on the pool deck will last a life time.
This fall, I forgot what it felt like to love the daily grind. And with six months left in a nine year career, I don’t intend to lose my favorite part of being an athlete. There is no requirement for being “good enough” to train as a post grad. I am enough. I do enough. And even if giving it my all is less than why it’s been in years past, does not make this year any less successful than previous years. I have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone else. This year isn’t about making a final, or learning new tricks, but about persevering towards a goal a made years ago. The only one I owe this year is myself. Seems appropriate that it’s during the holiday season I find myself seeking joy without justification.