Sunday, June 17, 2012

Who I Am

For so many reasons, beginning this post has been difficult. Perhaps it is my wrinkled, unpacked laundry calling, perhaps it is that it is far too hot out for nearly 9pm; but, perhaps it is entirely for so many more reasons that I haven't quite processed yet.

I am sitting on my bed, my own bed, for the first time in nearly a week. Arriving home from Bismarck, ND just a few moments after the fate of so many lives where announced to be changed forever. I sat on the outskirts of many eager wheelchairs and prostheses, helpful canes and hopeful parents alike. I sat at the cusp of something very, very big.

As they announced the 2012 Paralympic Swim Team alphabetically, I didn't even daydream about the tone or inflection that they may use in my name, for I had realized some time before I left that I still had a long way to go before my name would be read for such an audience. However, I had also realized that I was exactly where I  needed to be at that very moment.

Going into this meet, I prepared my hardest. I trained day in and day out towards becoming the best athlete that I could ever envision for myself. I showered myself in my own blood, sweat, and tears on a daily basis. I never set out to prove anything to anyone else other than myself, but over the past two years, it has been shockingly apparent that my own desire for the challenge had been caught by more eyes than I could have ever thought possible.

My journey, which started off to be solely about swimming, has transformed into something so powerful that has, no doubt, transformed my very being. I have gained so much, both inward and out. I have been privileged to make connections in the best company I would ever know. I would feel lifted by the same spirits that I have dedicated to mentor and teach for years. I have become stronger and more healthy, which maintains its direct proportion to the quality of my life. I have gained a sense of confidence that has made a nice, new home near my very center. I have grown far more than I knew I needed to.

Over the course of the Trials, I swam with my heart and the pride of my own character. I took many, subtle breath-like snapshots throughout the whole experience, each time reminding myself to enjoy every single minute of it. I took the time to be a friend and a mentor to swimmers around me--making connections that would far outlast the results of any race. I found myself smiling throughout my warm-ups and cool-downs, face to the bottom of the pool--enjoying my own grand moment of just "being".

And as hard as it is going to be for me to explain to most, having best swims doesn't necessarily equate to Paralympic Team status. BUT, what is going to be EVEN harder for me to explain is the full sense of serenity and contentment of the experience in its entirety. I suppose that I realized a long time ago, that people needed me to have a tangible goal: the Paralympics. However, I knew that I had already far exceeded every goal of mine on a daily basis. 

I feel that I have become a better person, for myself and for my own world surrounding. 

On the second day of competition, I had a conversation with myself as I was cooling down after finishing just shy of under a minute in my 50-backstroke race. (I have been trying to do that for a year now). At first my conversation went something like, "You still have one more chance at it, one more chance tonight." But, then it hit me like a hundred water bolts from the aquatic center sky: I have as many chances as I want, until I say that I am done.

And so it is. I will be back in the pool in the morning--not because I have something to prove or a challenge to encounter, but only because it makes me exactly WHO I AM, and I like the simplicity of that notion very, very much. 


  1. I came across this because I am a friend of Sarah Wilson's. This is awesome--you are awesome. I don't know your entire story, but simply believing that as humans we are all imprinted with the same potential for strength, yours makes me want to try harder. Thank you.

  2. Ryan, I am so very proud of you and am pleased and impressed by your performances at the Trials! Well done! I'm sure I speak for many of your swimming poolmates when I say that we all feel lucky to share the water with someone of your character, strength, and spirit. I especially liked your "I have as many chances as I want" observation -- that is SO true! I am sure that your experiences in Bismarck will be a foundation for fulfillment of additional amazing goals in the future. I hope you had lots of fun at the Trials -- I look forward to seeing you at swim practice soon, and hearing more about your experience!

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