Maybe next year, I kept saying. Maybe next year will be better; maybe I will become smarter; maybe I will get faster at swimming; maybe, just maybe I will be happier.
My story isn’t unique. I didn’t overcome any life-altering injuries or experience any tragedies. I simply chose to change my outlook on life.
I entered my freshman year at the University of Georgia with the same outlook as 95% of other freshman college students. “It’s college, you only live once!” I expected to study sparingly, swim sometimes, and party all the time—that’s what college is supposed to be about, right? I waved goodbye to my parents with the thought that I would maybe call once a month because there was absolutely no way that I would miss them. I was wrong.
Entering college, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
I was aboard what I call the “smooth sailing” boat—always hoping for the best without actually putting the work in. This mentality affected both my academics and my swimming. Sure, it’s difficult to manage your time as a student-athlete. It’s also not impossible.
My transition from high school was incredibly rough; I was trying to balance the heavy workload college provided while surviving the grueling practices of a Division One swimming program. Some days, I wondered whether or not I could ever get through three more years of it.
College was everything I had imagined it to be and more. I got away with the bare minimum, thinking that I would be satisfied with the results. Slowly, a feeling of regret and shame filled my mind as my sophomore summer approached. Asking myself what I am proud of accomplishing my freshman year, my mind draws a blank. Absolutely nothing went the way I planned.
I wasn’t happy with my grades—despite acting as though they meant nothing—and I definitely wasn’t happy with the way I had contributed to my swim team as a swimmer and teammate. I was not the girl that my parents had raised, and I was not the same girl my coaches had recruited.
Something was missing, and it took me a while to realize that something was faith. In order to find positivity and seek improvement in my life, I started to have faith in the plan that God has for me. When I did so, it felt like everything in my life started to change for the better.
I needed to trust myself to believe I could improve, but more importantly I needed to have trust in God. I threw myself into my schoolwork, training, and extra-curricular activities in hopes of avoiding the same mistakes that I made my freshman year.
As the year continued, I matured and realized college doesn’t consist solely of partying and trying to fit in.
Stepping back from my previous expectations, I discovered the multitude of great opportunities available for student-athletes.
I realized that I actually needed to study in order to excel in school (who would have thought) and that my future was not going to depend on my athleticism.
I also became aware that happiness came to me naturally—doing things I never thought I would be involved in when I first entered college. Now, I truly enjoy both swimming and academics.
As I enter my junior year here at UGA, I could not be more content with my life. College, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t so bad after all. Every once in a while, take a deep breath, smile, and thank God for this wonderful life you have been given.