Devastation and disappointment. That is the best way to describe being injured in my experience. I was devastated that it seemed like my sport was taken away from me, and in seconds my world came crashing down. It felt like the wind was knocked out of me unexpectedly. I was disappointed because it felt like my body failed me and that I failed my team, even though it was out of my hands. There was nothing that could prevent it. I spent sleepless nights crying while replaying the image of my knee giving out under me. I felt like I lost everything that I had worked for and it tore me to pieces as I missed practices and meets. It seemed like I lost this huge part of myself to this one defining moment. I lost myself completely.
I felt insignificant when I was injured. I lost my place quickly because suddenly I wasn’t training, and I had an ample amount of free time where I found myself alone. I certainly wasn’t helping my team and the transition back to training was agonizing and grueling. Constantly I was held back when I only wanted to keep moving forward and I just kept falling further behind. Being injured not only caused a loss in my sport but also in my academics and social life, and soon I was struggling in every area of life. Anxiety swallowed me up and ate me alive. My identity lied so much within my sport and suddenly I didn’t know who I was anymore.
Being a Division I collegiate athlete was a dream of mine since I started swimming, and for the past 13 years it was what I strived for. As a collegiate athlete I wanted to do my best for the team as all athletes do. Our team is what motivates us and inspires us daily to be the best version of ourselves. They’re our family. After years of endless hard work, it felt like it was all over. The 5 am practices were for nothing. I fell short of so many goals I couldn’t attain after struggling with an injury for over 4 years and it was hard to wrap my mind around all of it. After all this time and all of the hard work I put in, I came so far only to not feel like I went far enough.
Athletics was the center of my life because it has given me endless opportunities that I am eternally grateful for. I got to go to one of the best schools in the nation, travel the country and compete internationally, meet the most amazing people, and make friendships that will last forever. And within seconds the center of my life crashed and the rest followed suit. After months, I realized I am more than an athlete. It took me suffering a major injury and facing reconstructive surgery to understand that. I faced more important issues beyond my athletic career that opened my eyes. Life truly had more to offer.
We are more than our sports whether it feels like it or not. More defines who we are besides one single thing. We are brothers and sisters, friends, mothers and fathers, we are intelligent and kind, we are human. We are thousands of things that make us who we are, and our sport is just one of them. There is a never-ending list of things we have been, we are, and will be. Life goes on after athletics, and one day it does come to an end for most athletes. I know the future transition won’t be easy, whenever that may be but I am beyond grateful for what I have been given by my sport. I have learned to be humble, manage time, love others, and make the most of what is given to you.