I am at the flags taking my final breath of air as I prepare to dash for the finish. This 100 meter swimming race is, in many ways, a microcosm of the passage that is my high school experience.
It began with the announcer saying “Swimmers take your marks…” Like the start of my freshmen year, feelings of excitement, anticipation, and a good deal of nervousness ran through me. I was ready for the journey that lay ahead and thought I had a general plan of what was to come. Beep. I dove in head first, but immediately went too deep by mistake. My grades in school weren’t what I was used to in junior high, and I fell behind the competition. Instead of panicking, I understood that it was only the beginning and that my confidence in my abilities plus the support of my family and friends would carry me past this initial obstacle. Finally I come up for air.
Is your stroke too short? Keep your kick steady. How’s your head position?
With all these messages running through my head, I never found my rhythm. My sophomore year was similarly hectic. The pressure was on, I needed to improve my grades and my brother had just left for college, leaving all of my parent’s critical attention squarely on my shoulders. Along with that, I was juggling private cello lessons (since age 5), Dallas Youth Orchestra, varsity cross country, varsity swimming, competitive club swimming, and attempting to have a social life among new friends. It would come crashing down at any moment. I needed to focus, and remembered Mark Cuban’s advice, “Keep it simple, stupid.” I reluctantly let go of cello lessons and running cross country. As I reached the halfway point of my high school career, like heading into the 50 meter flip-turn at the wall, I knew this would be the worst time to slow down and rest, a common mistake. Instead, I would accelerate into the third and most important quarter.
My coaches always said not to give in to the fatigue that sets in during the third leg of the race. I continued to see my coaches and teammates cheering along the sides of the pool, but I knew that the clock was ticking and the outcome would solely be in my hands. My junior year would be the year I took control of my situation. Although classes were more challenging, I had found my rhythm. I had learned to focus and could overcome distractions such as my younger friends with fewer responsibilities. I looked around and I had begun to separate myself from the competition.
So here I am at the flags. With the end so near, the temptation to rest is so great. The wall is in sight and I must not hold back. I am in my final year and I see many around me slowing down with bad cases of “senioritis.” They take fewer and easier classes while saying they won’t count. However, this is not my plan.
My plan is this: I will reach hard for the wall to finish. I will realize it was over as soon as it began, and have a look at the clock, knowing that my placing among others is not as important as simply bettering myself. I will climb out of the pool, feeling relief that it is over. However, this was only one race, and very soon in the swim meet that is life, I will have to prepare, using what I had just learned, for the next race that is my college experience.