On Giving Up

So here it goes. My first embracing ambiguity post.

I have started and restarted this post more than three times in an attempt to make it all sound right and most importantly to make my failure gain some sort of universality. Something that you can connect to. The hardest part was that writing this piece meant facing the biggest failure of my life.

For those that don’t know me, I am, or was, a swimmer. I once dreamed of the Olympics and spent my days pushing my body, mind and emotions beyond their limits. In reality, this meant 10-2hr practices a week in the water (including 5am wake-ups), at least 5 hours of dryland, physiotherapists for my overused shoulders, sports psychologists, massage therapists, eating right, flying to new cities only to see the inside of a pool, and so many more things than I can list. It also included incredible friendships and memories, the success of besting your own times or winning provincial medals; though these things don’t seem to add up to much anymore. When someone asks me now if I am still swimming, I tell them I quit and then correct myself because I actually retired. Working at something for over 15 years makes it a career. Right?

But it wasn’t work. Swimming was my passion, my life, my everything. And for it I truly sacrificed everything. And when you have something that important, letting it go can feel almost impossible. It took me two years to realize that the time had come for me to leave behind that life.

Until a short time ago, I revolved my life around a dream. Maybe it goes back further than one month though for I had been slowly spiraling away for even a few years. But what is a few years of semi-commitment when you have spent the last 15 focused on one sole passion. And finally, after 2 years drifting away from what I had previously defined as my life, I quit or maybe I failed or maybe I just retired. Near the end, I agonized over every decision, every workout and when I finally couldn’t manage to continue on, knowing that my goals were unreachable; I knew it was the end. I failed mentally, my body failed me and I failed at the only thing I had ever given my all.

But when I talked about this to an aunt of mine soon after the decision, she reminded me that everyone expects the right decision to make us feel good, so when that good uplifting feeling doesn’t come we question what we have done. It’s funny how the right decision can feel so shitty sometimes.

This year in one of my courses we have discussed a lot about relative versus absolute gains, and I think that there are also relative and absolute failures. I think that I have just gone through a relative failure. It is a failure as compared to how well I thought I would do, how well my colleagues are doing and my friends and family continue to remind me that this failure was not absolute. Life goes on.

Of my 22 years of life, I have spent 15 of them dedicated to this passion and when I was finally released from this love/hate relationship I felt and feel anguish at my failure.

— MG

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3 thoughts on “On Giving Up

  1. Lisa says:

    You may find this resonates with you: Leanne Shapton’s ‘Swimming Studies’ (http://www.amazon.ca/Swimming-Studies-Leanne-Shapton/dp/0399158170) It is written by a woman who, like you, swam from an early age. Once she realized she was not quite Olympic material, stopped swimming, for a while at least, though swimming informs her life to this day.

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