I used to sit in my university classes and day dream about the day when I was training full-time. Well, maybe not full-time. I knew I'd have to be working to support my pursuit. But I knew that once I graduated, my stressors outside of the athletic realm would be minimized. I fantasized about the day when I was no longer stressed by never-ending readings, last minute-papers and heavily weighted exams. I longed for a time when I could come home from practice and just relax, rather than force myself to complete some academic related activity. When it comes to being a student-athlete, everyone learns (sometimes the hard way) that student comes first, athlete comes second. I simply couldn't wait for the athlete part to come first so I could focus 100% on my athletic career.
Now, I sit on my lunch break at work wishing I could get those days back. Every aspect. The annoying group project members. The long nights. Mandatory participation. Those panicked last few minutes before an exam when everyone around you is reciting definitions and you're thinking, "I don't remember that one". The highlighting - oh God all the highlighting. I'd undoubtedly do it all again to get those days back. I'd gladly take on the student part if it meant being a student-athlete once again. I miss it more terribly than I ever thought I would. You don't realize how important being a part of team is to you until you suddenly feel like you're in it alone.
I thought it would all get easier after graduation - the whole athlete thing. I never for a second considered that perhaps it would actually not only get harder, but suddenly feel impossible. Training alone. Managing expenses. The 12 hour days. These are things I wish I would have prepared myself for when I envisioned what life would be like post-graduation. I thought I would be living the dream. Was I naive? I guess so. I wish I would've known. Maybe then I would have savoured every last second of that time in my life that I now desperately wish I had back.
Through the mental and emotional challenges this transition has brought about, I am doing my best to stay present and experience the shit out of this time in my life - no matter how difficult it is. I tell myself that maybe, just maybe, there will be a point when my future self longs to have THESE days back. A strange thought - why would I ever wish for this instability and stress? But the grass is always greener, right? I'm sure there will come a day when my current problems are trivial, almost laughable. When I will look fondly back on the time (right now) when I had relatively few responsibilities and was simply putting everything on the line just for the mere possibility of making my Olympic dream come true. I know this is a chance that I could never regret taking.
I miss it - but I know I got everything I possibly could have out of my experience as a student-athlete, and for that reason I'm grateful. Onwards I forge, even if right now I'm stumbling every step of the way.