Friday, April 15, 2011


You wouldn't know it's been almost a week since my Nationals meet. My shoulders are still reminding me of every single second of it. However, the clothes on my bedroom floor are reminding me to get back to work and back to the "real" world. But what is that?

I now realize that I have been living a dual existence for several months now: socially-awkward biology teacher by day, while something entirely different at other times both before dawn and dusk alike.

My training is slowly creating its own persona. At the gym, I am commented upon on a regular basis... the hours that I spend in the pool, the ever-growing size of my biceps (when will that stop?!), the insane amount of gear that I carry... Although, I am happy to announce that I don't believe a single word of it.

One thing that is getting increasingly hard though is coming back. Coming back to a daily routine and leaving behind the excitement of the competition surprisingly leaves holes and aches in my heart-- a feeling that I have only known once before, when leaving India. My heart is telling me that this is something important, this is something to hold on to.

This week has been a whirlwind. I have spent most of it nursing my shoulders, forearms, and hands. I have listened to their woes and rocked them to sleep at night. Beyond that, I have spent a lot of time in my head. I have been bantering with myself about the importance/unimportance of me making a selection team.

See, the National meet also doubled as a selection meet for both the Parapan/Am Games as well as the Parapan/Pac Meet, and I was trying desperately to forget about that. However, my innate neuroses led my fingers to my keyboard no less than 200 times per day, checking for any sort of indication or update that the list was out. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore--so Thursday morning, before I even had a chance to say "good morning" to the sun, I was cycling back and forth in my aquatic haven when I ultimately decided that I was not going to make a select team and that was completely okay. Fine. Done.

Flash-forward 6 hours to me scarfing my favorite of microwaved burritos while taking that 8 minutes alloted in my day to actually take in a mindful breath, when my inbox dinged at me the way a petite cartoon mouse's doorbell would. I could barely look with both eyes.

After giving myself the necessary encouragement to even open the email, I did it and held onto my breath tightly. In typical form, I--no doubt--was playing off of a lack of confidence the entire time; because, lo and behold, the email title was, "2011 Parapan American Team Nominees."

I scrolled down with eyes and cursor, skimming words like, "congratulations" and "training camp" and even another "CONGRATULATIONS"... though I was still in disbelief. A mistake? A rude mass email that goes to all athletes?


I made the team.

In 7 months I have coached myself the best way that I know how and apparently someone else noticed. In 7 months I have turned a love for swimming into a LOVE for swimming. In 7 months I have transformed and created a powerful competitor that can't wait to continue to try.

So, patting my shoulders and sending them care, I start training for the biggest thing I have ever known. The Parapan/Am Games will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico in November. They are estimating nearly 140 athletes from the US to compete in 13 different sports for their country, and I will be one of them.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Loving Every Second of It

Think of the most simple, yet powerful emotion that you can muster... something so full of life and energy, but has the capacity to be shared by all and through all. It's really not as tough as it seems. 


I recognized this as I was warming up for my 50 backstroke final on Friday night. I was searching high and low, between the sulci and crevasses of my brain, and realized in one earth-shattering synapse, that it all lies in the realm of love.

Love is something that is earnest, it is pure. Love can conquer all, at least according to most current pop songs on the radio. Love can exist and should exist for everyone. John Lennon understood it. I'm pretty sure even that crotchety old man that cut in front of you in line knew it at one time too.

Love is, undoubtedly, the most powerful emotion that anyone can get captured in. It causes us to lose sight of our surroundings and even causes us to ignore ourselves. Love can rage wars and usurp liberties. 

And so it was LOVE that I found in the warm-up session that Friday night. 

I was terribly worried about not understanding how to sprint. It had to be quick and well-planned, without utilizing much thought in the actual moment of it all. It had to be controlled, yet fierce. It had to be real. 

As I searched through my Rolodex of emotions, I quickly realized that it was much more simple than I was trying to make it. I was attempting mathematical calculations to try to understand the sprint, when all I really had to do was understand how much I truly LOVE it.

I love the way swimming puts me in an underwater world in which it is only my breath and body making rhythmic sounds. I love how swimming pushes my muscles to their exhausted limits. I love how swimming has become an example for understanding the power of the human effort. I love the way that swimming takes me away from my wheels and my mind for moments at a time. I love how I can connect with my whole body underwater. 

And with that, I swam my sprint with nothing but pure love

As it turns out, I took off nearly 6 seconds from that morning's race simply just by loving every second of it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

In the Company of Competition

So far, this meet has  influenced me to think a lot about the nature of COMPETITION. I am learning as the events are swum that my idea of competition may be far different from many, many others'.

To me, competition is about being the best that YOU can be. It is about preparing and finding your own way into the "zone". Competition is developed through a pure motivation that involves YOU, and YOU alone. There is no sense of desiring to beat anyone. As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as anyone else.

This is what I have always felt about competition.

But being here, at this Nationals meet, I am surrounded by many people who are not only very interested in MY swimming, but are well educated on my status as well. It is strange to be focusing on your next race, mentally preparing your brain to do the work that your body knows, only to get interrupted in the distance by a coach explaining to her swimmer how I swim that event. It is also strange to see another swimmer and coach sit at the end of my warm-up lane, observing intently with little chatter. One can only speculate, but in that speculation, these observers became my own spectators.

For whatever the reason, there are many competitors that set their sights beyond their own competition. They make goals to beat certain swimmers, friends even, and that becomes their spark of motivation. I am having a very hard time understanding these notions, and while I am good at tucking them away and focusing on myself, I can't help but wonder WHY...

Monday, April 4, 2011

In Pursuit of A Superhero

In a town that had no story and certainly no song, the color had drained from all life and a sense of helplessness and uncertainty lingered alongside stench and garbage. This town was desperate for some good luck, or a paint job, or a savior, or a change. This town, with no story nor song, needed something or someone to fix it, because--by the looks of things--there was little hope that the town would make it much longer on its own.

This town needed a superhero.

This town needed someone to fly in on a parade of hope and swoop down into the crowd showering onlookers with smiles and chocolate bars. The superhero would be strong and brave, willing to knock some sense in any troublemaker and ship them far, far away from this Neverland. The superhero would also be kind and charismatic; with one single graceful effort of plucking a misguided kitten from a tree and sharing hot jasmine tea with the mayor. The superhero would be highly regarded by all and would seem never the wiser. And this superhero would bring the color back to this poor, forsaken town.

But, we may live a lifetime without seeing that flowing cape or the smile of that fated superhero that was going to save everything. What a lovely thought to have a superhero swoop down and shower me with love and chocolates and rescued kittens.

However lovely it may seem, it is wrong to hope for something or someone else to make your life more special or defined or fragrant or meaningful. Both the problem and the solution lie within one's self.

I am my own superhero. I have learned, in just a few short months, that I can be strong and charismatic and graceful and confident. I am completely capable of taking a stinky old town and making it beautiful and happy once again. I am also capable of transforming dreams into goals, and goals into accomplishments, and accomplishments into even more dreams to come.

I am my own superhero. I don't need anyone else to come and save me or my kitten. I am ready for any obstacle or roadblock that may cross my path, for I have powers that, I now know, created that very path in the first place.