I caught the bug. I had kept it at bay for a while. In fact, I even thought that I might be in the clear and not catch it this time around. But last weekend I caught it.
I have Olympic fever.
I will admit that, despite my extensive swimming background, my interest leading up to the Olympics this year had been a bit waning. Unlike previous years, I didn’t know who was swimming what events. I didn’t know who had trained hard with which coaches. I didn’t know who was a favorite and who had just snuck in. It seemed that I was –gasp! – a fair-weather fan.
But as soon as the first televised race aired last Saturday morning, I was hooked. I was right there competing with the athletes. Certainly, I never competed at the caliber of these elite athletes, but, nonetheless, I could feel my hands pressing through the water. I could feel my legs aching when they pushed off the wall at each turn. I could see the other competitors out of the corner of my eye as they turned their heads for a breath. My body could almost feel the lactic acid building in my muscles from the extreme physical exertion.
Over the past several days, as I have watched these athletes compete from the comfort of my air-conditioned living room, I think back on the long, tedious hours spent swimming back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I remember standing on the edge of the pool at 5:30 in the morning, staring into the blue abyss and dreading jumping into the cold water. I remember the sacrifices and trade-offs. I remember the highs. And I remember the lows.
I remember what it felt like to be more than anyone ever thought I could be. And I remember what it felt like when my best just wasn’t good enough. I remember the elated high that came when I realized that my hard work actually paid off. And I remember the pain I felt when it sunk in that I would not get a second chance to prove my capabilities.
As I watch these young athletes compete to be considered the best in the world, I vicariously relive my competitive swimming life. Admittedly, I feel a great deal of relief that the grueling days of 5-6 hours training per day and weekend long swim meets are over.
But I also look back with longing and a bit of wonder. I am awestruck when I remember the mental fortitude that I possessed as a teen. I marvel at the confidence and self-fulfillment that I once carried in me. I am amazed by the quiet determination and assuredness that my younger self enjoyed.
I watch these young athletes step on the starting blocks exuding a perfect combination of poise and grit, and I wonder. How can I get that back?
Do you live vicariously through anyone? How do you call up your confidence when it’s lacking?