When I logged on to Facebook this morning one of the first things I noticed was that Canada's Paralympic swim team had ben announced. At first, I wasn't really sure how to feel about it. I'm not sure I know now how to feel about it. This is the first time in twelve years that I haven't been preparing for a Paralympic Games and it feels strange.
Don't get me wrong, part of me is glad. I had my reasons for retiring and no one could pay me enough to come back. Okay, perhaps a large sum may tempt me and a promise of a certain coach change would, but short of that, I am staying as far away from that arena as possible. Yet, another part of me feels slightly lost and wishes I was in the thick of it all. It's hard to do something for so long and then suddenly give it up. It completely changes your social role and you have to find a new place for you to fit in. I think I've done pretty well at that, but part of me still wants to desperately compete.
I miss the practices, believe it or not. The hard work and knowing that I put everything on the line. I miss the feeling of that kind of physical exertion. It's a feeling very difficult to describe. And, of course, I miss the competitions and winning. I miss pushing myself to be faster, stronger, better. It was something I was good at. It was something I could work hard at and be successful. I didn't think that the naming of the team would bother me. I mean, I did retire four years ago.
I thought I had put the feelings of displacement behind me. I have a great life that I am so blessed to have. I've had so many amazing experiences out of the pool that I am so grateful for, but for some reason, today, I really miss the water. I miss that community and being a part of a team. I miss the feeling of walking out behind the blocks with your country's colours displayed on your swim cap and I even miss the mundane things too. I was lucky enough to win a silver medal, but I never did win that elusive gold medal and part of me wonders "what if I had held on for four more years?" What if I had given it one more shot?
A lot of things happened that made my last Games a mess. I was kind of disappointed that my last "go round" had to end with that competition. I think because I felt like there wasn't any closure at the end, my "what if" factory turned on into over drive and I think the "what if I had stayed" has always been at the back of my mind.
I've struggled this year and even the year before, trying to train for a triathlon. I finally decided that wasn't going to happen this year and have focused on staying fit instead. When I start back to school in the fall, perhaps I'll find a few running partners and will be able to set new goals for myself, such as running a marathon, but for today I shall face my "what ifs" and shove them back down. Perhaps this time around I'll be able to silence them for good. Maybe it's important that I explore them this time and acknowledge them in order to be able to move on fully.
Whatever happens, I am so happy for those who made the team. I know, from experience times three, that they are in for the ride of their lives; an experience they will never forget.