6 months ago, if you told me that I would be back in the water, in better shape than ever and captain of the team, I would have told you you were insane. But here I am, 6 months later, and I would have been wrong. You were not insane. It was a hard time to go through. All the lying and hiding and ditching practice, I’m hoping I never go through it again. But, it changed my life forever. I hated the sport, I wanted nothing to do with the water. I couldn’t stand to be around my coaches or the pool. I distracted myself, or at least I tried to. I kept everything inside for so long, not saying anything to anyone, even my parents. But finally, that day came when I had to let it all out. I had to tell people how I was feeling. That week, the day and the week after I told my parents what happened was the hardest week of my life. I thought I would never get over it. Someone close to me helped me gain some perspective at this point. She told me to take a step back. Take a couple weeks out of the water and see where it takes you. It might take you back to the water, it might take you somewhere very different. And whichever way I went, it would be okay. I knew that I had some other passions that I never had time to pursue. I was interested in nutrition, I was passionate about body image and I wanted to help others learn how to be healthier. But what could I do about this? Well, those two weeks out of the water ended up being the most clarifying two weeks of my life. I found so many opportunities that I never would have discovered if I didn’t pull myself away from the pool. I began working on projects that I became so emotionally attached to because of how passionate I was for those things. At that point I looked at my life and thought that finding these new passions meant that I was done with swimming. The time had come and I was ready to hang up my suit one last time. Boy was I wrong. Although it was a grueling process that took a long time, I found my way back. I started swimming again simply to stay in shape. I had no desire to go the extra mile or to race, I just needed to keep my body moving. And after a 1 month break, 2 months of swimming for exercise, 2 months of swimming on my own over the summer, and 1 month of swimming with our new team (shout out to Eagle Swim Club!!), I found my passion. Was it a new passion? No. Did I always know it was my passion? Yes. So why did I think I found my new passion? Because I did. I had lost touch with the water for so long, that I had come to terms with the fact that it was over. Discovering my passion again felt like no other feeling. It was a Tuesday afternoon about 3 weeks into school, and I was on the bus home after a hard practice and this rush of happiness fled over me. I couldn’t figure out why, but now I know. It was the moment I fell in love with swimming (again!).
We live in a world where social media is the starting point for almost everything. This can be a great platform to raise awareness for important causes, or becoming reacquainted with an old friend. But while those are positives, the negatives can be extreme. Social Media opens up a door for anybody to say something (negative or positive) about somebody else. Sometimes this is anonymous, and sometimes it is not; but whether you know the identity of the person saying things about you or not is almost irrelevant. No matter what, hearing someone say or write that you have short legs, are ugly or fat is always going to make you begin to feel insecure about yourself. Everybody has their insecurities and they don’t need bullies out there making it worse for them. My big question is why these people write nasty things about other people, why do you even care what they look like when you don’t even know them? For some reason, people dwell on what other people think of them, even more than what they think about themselves. Isn’t the most important thing for you to be happy and feel healthy? With all of those body trends out there, it is impossible to have a body that everyone will think is perfect, and at the same time, there will always be something about yourself that you will not like. Why is having a gap between your thighs important, and why do your hip bones need to stick out when you’re lying out by the beach in a bikini? These body trends are not only unimportant, but they are unattainable by most people. I have never been the skinniest girl out there, but the important thing is that I am healthy and happy. I may not have a super toned 6-pack, but I can hold a plank for hours. I may not have a thigh gap, but I can do hundreds of squats and lunges. My hipbones may not stick out when I’m lying down, but I feel good in a bikini. It has never bothered me that I can’t be super skinny and have a thigh gap because that’s just not who I am and who I am supposed to be. So many people out there obsess over every little thing about their body that they forget what the most important things are. At the end of the day, you are not going to live longer because you have a thigh gap, you’re not going to find true love just because your hip bones stick out and you’re not going to be happier just because you have all of the body trends out there.
To all the body shamers out there, it isn’t necessary to hate on other people’s bodies, especially if you don’t know them. Accept them for who they are and their inner beauty. To those of you who are always trying to change things about your body, remember this; the most important thing about you is who you are on the inside. Your friends and family will love you for who you are, thigh gap or no thigh gap. Instead of always trying to lose your body, build on it. Maybe today you can only run 1 lap of the track, but make it your goal to make it to 2, then 3 and 4. As long as you are happy and feel good about yourself, then there shouldn’t be any reason for you to listen to the haters out there. Love yourself for who you are, and the world will do the same!