Time Flies By

When I think about May 31st, 2019, I think about what I’m leaving behind when I walk across the amphitheater to get my high school diploma.

I’m leaving behind the campus I’ve called my home the past four years, the classes where I challenged myself and found my passions, and the teachers who helped me find those passions. I’m leaving behind my friends, who I won’t see at breakfast every morning or go on camping trips with anymore.

These last four years weren’t always easy. As much as I’ve loved them, they were some of the most challenging years of my life. But, one thing made life away from home just a little easier to manage and it wasn’t my teachers or friends.

It was my horse. A bay, appendix quarter horse named Time who I’ve been riding since my freshman year. My family always asks me what I’ll miss the most about OVS when I leave and the answer is always the same: Time.

When the Thomas Fire came on December 4th, 2017, I panicked as we were evacuating on the bus thinking my horse wasn’t going to make it out alive. I cried myself to sleep, despite the constant reassurances. Over the summer, I ended up crying again when I went three months without riding and, more specifically, without riding Time. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I have to say goodbye to him during the last week of school knowing that it’ll be the last goodbye. Knowing hat I won’t be getting back on once summer is over. Knowing that one day, towards the end of May, I will untack for the last time and possibly never get back on him. That, the following September, he’ll get a new rider and I’ll be at a university in a completely different city. I hope that rider loves that freaking horse as much as I do, though. Sometimes I wonder if that’s possible.

So many things happened the last four years with Time by my side. I went with him to my first horse show, on my first horse camping trip, my first dressage clinic, and my first injury, which he gave me after he threw me off at said horse show. Even though I got a fractured back, the story was still funny and memorable.

Photo Credit: ignant.com

I can imagine leaving OVS and going off to college, but I can’t imagine leaving Time. I can’t imagine my school day not consisting of me going to the barn at the end of the day and getting on him whether the lesson ends up going well or not. I wish I could take him with me to college, but it’s probably not possible.

Last Friday, my aunt and uncle came to watch me ride. “I don’t understand how some people just let go of their horses or sell them,” my aunt said. “They’re pets too.”

Time may have not be mine legally, but he is mine. At least, I like to say he is and, at least, many other people thought Time was mine before I told them he wasn’t. But, he is my horse. The horse I’ve ridden for all of high school and the animal I’ve developed a bond with.

I’m not ready to let Time go, but I’ll have to and I will. Even if it might be one of the most painful things I’ll ever have to do.

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Shortcuts

Let’s face it, they’re nice. Who am I kidding, they can be great.

Would you rather win the lottery or work your ass off everyday, struggling to get by?

Would you rather get straight A’s and not even have to try or be in a class where getting a B- minus is a HUGE accomplishment?

Would you rather do your Spanish homework or go on Quizlet and find the answers?

Would you rather tell your mom you swept the floor or would you rather actually sweep the floor?

Would you rather take an hour to fold and put away your clothes or just shove them in your closet in less than thirty seconds?

What I’m getting at here is, shot cuts can be nice. Who am I kidding, they can be great. Yet, as great as they are, most make life harder in the long run.

Cool, Quizlet got my Spanish work done in two minutes, but do I even know what the heck any of the questions are asking?

Cool, my mom thinks I swept the floor, but am I really the type of person who will throw away their integrity just to get out of a thirty second chore?

Cool, my clothes are out of the way, but, shoot, when I went to get dressed, a mountain of clothing fell on me.

Cool, I did twenty push-ups instead of twenty-five, but is getting done first even an accomplishment if you cheated?

Photo Credit: lovethispic.com

Many days, I see people taking short cuts too, so its nice to know that I’m not the only one. But, more than just self-reassurance, I find it comforting that I’m not the only one who occasionally struggles with putting short term effects over long term results.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you need to walk twenty miles to work instead of driving because you have legs. I’m nothing saying to use them, to not even think about taking the car. I’m not saying no short cuts for you. But, if work is a three minute walk from your house, don’t take a short cut and drive. Being efficient and taking a short cut are two VERY different things.

Efficiency is great. A needed skill set in the always-going world we live in. Why would you walk twenty miles to get to work when you can take a quarter of the time and drive? Why take three hours hand-writing a story when you can type it in a half hour?

A lot of the time, people mistake efficiency for cheating. The definition of efficiency is to get the most done in the shortest amount of time with the least work. So, maybe you’re thinking, that you’d rather read the Spark Notes of a book than read the full book.

Here’s the thing, when your teacher asks you what the main character’s last name is, will you have a clue?

When the Spanish test gets handed back, will you get a good grade?

When your mom asks if you did your chores, will you lie directly to her face?

When the race comes and your teammates are strong from doing all the pushups, was the satisfaction of doing less in practice worth the shame you feel now?

Recently, Ive been working on doing the right thing instead of taking the easy way out. I read my English books instead of reading the summary, so I get a good grade on the test. I worked hard in practice and I got a personal record in my race. I took the time to get what I needed to get done instead of putting it off for later or completely ignoring it at all.

I’ve realized that no matter how much you don’t want to, pushing through the little things is what makes you better, stronger, and smarter. Suffering through a hard workout will eventually result in success; thinking about what you say before you speak will result in less regretted words; and putting your all into everything you do will result in a life that you’re proud of.

Take the route that’s right, instead of the short cut. Because, as cliché as it sounds, it’s not the destination that matters, its’ the journey.

Powder to the People

Snowflake after snowflake is tumbling down on my shoulders, my gloves, my helmet, down my neck where it slowly melts and stains my skin pink. The air in my lungs is so much warmer than the air around me, but I can’t see my breath within all the white and grey falling through the space here.

Photo Credit: Mason Mashon Photo

I can’t see my skis, the snow is now all the way up to my knees. I try and dig a hole down my legs to tighten my boots one more time. I look around, look up to my siblings that are beside me, the only spots of color within my vision. One more time, my brother throws a snowball at me. I laugh and get a little mad internally, but now is not the time. Now is the time to be happy.

We all get out the handles for our ABS avalanche backpacks and connect them to the left shoulder strap. Our guide looks at us, and says “Geht schon!”, meaning “Okay, let’s go!”. We all push our poles into the snow in front of us and hop out of the deep powder as if it was nothing.

Here it goes.

The first second is nothing but exhilarating. I feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins as I float down the mountain, constantly fighting the curves and dips in the snow in order to not face plant. Stay away from the trees, stay away from the edge, don’t cross here, you might set off an avalanche. Just go, you love this.

The powder is fresh; we are the only ones here. This was definitely worth the long hike.

I am cold, but I can feel myself starting to sweat. My boots are too loose, don’t lose focus or you’ll twist your ankle. The snow is melting on my mask; the cold air is freezing it into solid ice. My braid is now white and covered in snow crystals. My breath is now in sync with my dashes, it’s cold and hard through my mouth and it hurts to breathe in; my nose is nearly closed up with ice. Just keep going. You don’t get to do this every day.

There is a steep part ahead. Look at your guide, your siblings, follow their lead. They’re better than you. It’s okay, you’re still doing it. The path is narrow, don’t hit the trees, watch out for the branches, the snow on top of them. Focus, use your legs, stay strong. We haven’t stopped this entire time and my feet and thighs are hurting. It’s good. Look ahead, there’s a lip. Jump, try not to fall, think of how hard it would be to get back up. You don’t want to make everyone else stop for you.

There it is, the bottom of the hill. From now on, it’s flat. There are some bumps, we try and jump and push each other over, race each other, spin around and go backwards. We did it.

We have to cross a stream; there’s a fallen tree trunk to walk on. The stomped-down snow on it makes it slippery and, with tired knees, we all make our way across. Now, all that’s left is a long way back to the town, an hour of walking and pushing through the trees in the valley. I’m really getting hot now; I have to open my jacket, unzip the sides of my pants, but it’s good. I feel good.

We get back to the ski lift and catch one of the last rides. Looking out through the slowly darkening alps around me, I see the mountain we had hiked up this morning in the distance. I feel tired, I feel hungry and sore, but the feeling of victory and accomplishment you get when you finally get to take off your heavy  boots and cold, wet gloves makes up for everything that has been aching for the past few hours.

I feel done; I feel tired; I feel good.

It’s Not Just A Sport; It’s A Life Style

We are sleep deprived.

We are sore.

We are tired.

We are hungry.

We have achy muscles.

We push ourselves to our limits day after day.

We attend eighteen hours of swim practice weekly.

We do a sport that works the ENTIRE body.

We endure vigorous, agonizing, grueling, strenuous sets.

We push our bodies until we throw up.

Our shoulders pop and crack constantly.

We wake up at four A.M. for morning practices.

We don’t only train in the pool, we run, lift weights, and basically do anything coach tells us to do.

We work and work and work for the hopes of dropping time, yet, many times, our times are stubborn and don’t budge.

We stare at a black line for hours. 25, 50,75, 100. 25, 50…

We cry at times.

We are always striving for a bigger and better goal than the one we just achieved.

“Normal” kids are watching TV; we are training.

We work nonstop, constantly, everyday to take off .01 seconds of our time.

We try our best and still get yelled at. We try our best and get rewarded.

We experience being unmotivated. We push through.

We don’t only strengthen ourselves as athletes, we strengthen our selves as people.

We suffer as a team, we grow as a team, we improve as team.

We make friends and experiences that will last a life time.

We have a second family.

We strive for that amazing feeling after working so, so hard. After giving a workout all you have, we strive for that feeling of accomplishment, achievement, effort, proudness, fulfillment.

We may forget it at times, but we love the sport.

We are swimmers.

A couple days in the past couple weeks, I have been in a slump when I go to practice. I am slower than my teammates who go and qualify for the Olympic trials. I feel slow. I push myself, yet still am slower than my teammates, I get discouraged. I feel like a failure, so I don’t work as hard as I should. I regret my performance in practice. I cry on the drive home.

Photo Credit: eBay.com

Today, I acknowledged the fact that I am on a fast team; my teammates are some of the best in the nation. I acknowledged the fact that I can be like them if I do what I do best: work hard. I acknowledged that I’m on this team for a reason.

Today, I worked so hard that my legs stung, my arms numb, my lungs burned, I got dizzy, my heart beat at what felt like a million miles an hour. At times, I was practically hyperventilating. At points, I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. I pushed as hard as I could. I missed a couple intervals, but I didn’t give up. At the end of the set, my body still ached and burned, but I felt amazing. A feeling of happiness almost beyond words. A feeling that any true athlete understands. At the end of the set, I felt the feeling that makes me remember why I love the sport. Remember why I do all of the things listed above. Remember why I’m so deeply  in love with this sport.

Remember why I am proud to say: “I am a swimmer.”

Sweaty Hugs and Hard-Earned Gatorade

Photo Credit: thepreachersword.com
team
tēm/
noun:
a group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport.
synonyms: group, squad, company, party, crew, troupe, band, side, lineup, phalanx
verb:
come together as a team to achieve a common goal.
“he teamed up with the band to produce the album”
synonyms: join (forces), collaborate, get together, work together.
Sweaty hugs; cheering until my throat is raw;the pre-race jitters; hard-earned Gatorade; singing to “Africa” on the bus rides; pushing through almost unbearable pain; the cheers from my coaches and team mates; the feeling of success, when all the hard training and effort pays off; the happiness of coaches bringing food, after you just pushed yourself to your physical max; the endless support we have for each other; the amount of effort we put in; the dynamic and connection between us athletes; the fact that real teammates don’t only care about how you perform, they care about how hard you try. All these things contribute to the the feeling of being part of an authentic team, which is one of the best feelings that exists.
au·then·tic
ôˈTHen(t)ik/
adjective
adjective: authentic.
of undisputed origin; genuine.
“the letter is now accepted as an authentic document”

synonyms: genuine, real, bona fide, true, veritable

antonyms: fake. synonyms: reliable, dependable, trustworthy, authoritative, honest, faithful.

In my words, the way it should be: caring and real. 

I’ve been on many teams before. On some, we’ve won championships and received numerous trophies. On some, we placed last and got our asses handed to us. Winning is great, it’s what I strive to do, but I’ve realized that more than just winning that counts. I’ve realized that to have a good team, winning can’t be the only focus.

On a previous team, every day I would give my all. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, even the slightest mess-up resulted in dirty glares and angry shrugs. It made it so I was nervous to go to practice; I was afraid of my teammates; I pushed myself to the limits, because I was scared the punishment if I didn’t; and I was absolutely mortified before every game. This approach worked. I got stronger, I got better, I became a better athlete, but I forgot the fact that I love the sport.

After two years on that team, another opportunity came up, so I switched to a team with a VERY different dynamic. We pushed each other to do our best, to be our best. When slip-ups or bad days came, we encouraged each other to get better, not to feel like shit. I became so close to my teammates, I had good relationships with my coaches, I was so excited to go to practice everyday, and I pushed myself to the limits, because I wanted to get better for myself and my team. Our team performed just as well as the other one I mentioned and my love for the sport was rekindled.

Recently, I joined another team. I love both of the teams I’m on right now so much, but it’s been a long time since I have felt the feeling of happiness, appreciation, friendship, and passion as I did yesterday at my first ever cross country meet.

I know I love swimming far more than I love running, so it confuses me that yesterday, in this sport that I just joined months ago,  has brought me almost as much joy as the sport I have been doing for years. I think it’s just because swimming is more of an individual sport without a large aspect of team. I think its because the swim team I’m on has people who qualify for the Olympics or on the Junior National Team and I’m so slow compared to them, it makes me feel like I’m slow, period. Maybe its because a cross country the team is only as strong as its weakest link, so everyone is needed. Maybe because in the small league we run in, I too place high and feel like a good runner.

I think all of these things are a factor, but what I know for sure is that the feeling of being part of an authentic team is one of the best feelings that exists.

My Tuesday Run

Image from redbirdhills.com

In cross county, my coaches always remind us that the sport has as much to do with mental strength as it does physical strength.

With that in mind, I’d like to invite you to come running with me – for the mental part, at least.

Here’s what a few miles look like inside of my head.

Mile 1:
Don’t start too fast, just get warmed up.
It’s hot today, but not as bad as it usually is. The gravel crunches beneath my shoes. We reach a little bit of downhill.
I hear my coach’s voice: “Let gravity do the work.”
Get your breathing back. Drop your arms. Shake it out.
The road in front of us curves up a long hill. It’s steep.
Slow it down. What hurts worse, lungs or legs? Legs. I can breathe still.
My calves tighten the farther up we climb. I count my steps between each exhale. We’re running in 4/4 time. I inhale on the 1st beat, exhale through 2, 3, 4.

Mile 2:
Sweat drips down my forehead. I wipe it off with my shirt.
Take it easy now.
My breathing is steady – that’s good. My left calf hurts more than my right. The opposite of yesterday.
This hill is a bitch. Settle in, we’ll be here for a while.
It hurts.

Mile 3:
Keep your arms down. Breathe.
The road settles and is flat for a while.
You’re not tired, it just hurts.

Mile 4:
What hurts worse, lungs or legs? Both. You’re not tired, you just can’t breathe. There’s a difference.
The next two miles are steady uphill.
Use your arms! The harder you work the faster you’ll be done.

Mile 5:
This hill is a BITCH.
My ragged breathing is louder than my shoes on the pavement. Sweat covers my whole body. My arms ache from pumping and the muscles in my legs feel like they’re made of both cement and water at the same time. My mouth is so dry that when I touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth it sticks.
Eyes up, on the road. So close. I feel awful.
I can’t breathe. The smell of wood chips in the orchard makes me want to puke. Push.
Everything hurts.

The Finish:
I jog past the green gate the marking the end of the road, the end of the run. My left foot leaves the pavement and lands on grass and the right follows.
Don’t sit down. Breathe.
As I walk back and forth beneath the oak trees, my lungs start to settle down. The tension in my legs slowly fades, first easing up in my quads and then from my calves.
My breathing returns to normal. I’m not hurting anymore.
I just ran five miles.
I feel good.

 

The Realization of Equestrian

Sometimes things don’t go the way we planned.

Over the weekend, I went with my school to a Pony Club mega rally for the first show of 2018. I was so excited. I’ve been riding my horse, Time, for weeks in preparation, and every single time I jumped he had been a saint.

This weekend was different. It shattered any self confidence I had in my riding skills when Time threw me off over a simple cross rail in the warm up arena and bruised my back so much that it currently hurts to breathe as I’m sitting here trying to do my homework after waking up at four am every morning this weekend to get to the show grounds.

I had fallen off just the day before when my horse stopped right in front of a jump. Now, I have to admit that it was my fault that I was in two-point way too early, but that’s besides the point. Not a single scratch was on me, and I shook off the dirt from my helmet, got back on, and finished the course I was set out to do.

Photo Credit: Jerry Mohme Photography

However, that was not the case on Saturday. When I hit the ground, I was certain that if I moved even just an inch my body would shatter into pieces and I’d be sent to the hospital in an ambulance. I couldn’t get up for minutes, until I was rolled onto my back, then I stood up, and I slowly walked foot by foot back to my stall without even getting to do that course.

I almost thought I wouldn’t be able to ride the next day either, and that weeks of training would’ve gone to waste. But the next day I ended up getting back on my horse and started jumping, and though my entire body was shaking every time I thought my horse would refuse a jump, we ended up clearing both courses.

But I guess there’s both pain and pleasure in horseback riding. There’s the sense of accomplishment when you jump a new height or when your horse comes to say hi to you and nuzzles his nose into the palm of your hand when he thinks you have treats. But there’s also the hours of pain whenever you fall off or when a horse steps on your foot. There’s the moments of self-degradation whenever you see a person with better position or better clothes, and the constant thoughts that plague your mind thinking that you’ll never be as good as them.

I’m not going to lie and say that my confidence in my jumping is back, because it’s not, and I don’t think it will be anytime soon (or, at least, until all the bruises go away), but it was a learning experience to some extent.

I’m going to fall off, and probably more times than I wish, and I’ll get back up, and fall and get back up, and that’ll keep happening, but I’ll still continue riding until I no longer can.