I spent most of my freshman and sophomore years weighed down by a constant sense of tiredness in my bones. But that was to be expected since I woke up at 5:30 a.m. three times a week to jump into a cold pool.
While swimming was very tiring, it didn’t always feel like I was trying to survive through the day. There were plenty of good moments too.
Some of the highlights of my swimming career include traveling to various places for swim competitions, such as the eight-hour bus ride to Brown University where the entire team played Exploding Kittens the whole way, the plane ride to Indianapolis spent talking about our futures and the ride to Georgetown where I napped the whole way.
Beginning my sophomore fall, I started to feel a tiredness toward swimming that I had never felt before. As a self-proclaimed couch potato, I’ve never really liked practices, but they were still largely bearable. I actually really enjoyed swimming in high school, which was a large reason why I pursued it diligently enough to be recruited for the team in college.
However, high school is very different from the busyness and stress of college. Starting sophomore fall, I could no longer stand going to practice and dreaded going every day.
Practice became the worst part of my day, and swimming began to feel more and more like a pair of shackles weighing me down, limiting what I could do with my life. I lost a lot of the joy I had for the sport in high school, and as I became more and more burned out from practice, I wondered what I should do about my future.
As a pre-med student, I realized that if I wanted to go to medical school right after college, I would soon have to start my clinical volunteering and shadowing requirements. With how time-consuming swimming was, it would be almost physically impossible to juggle all of these commitments and activities that school year. So something had to give: my future plans or the swim team.
As time passed, my apathy towards swimming grew and grew, and I increasingly felt that it might be time for me to move on from the swim team. Still I was worried. I worried that I would be making a decision that would negatively impact my career.
Before entering college, I originally planned to swim all four years and graduate boasting about how I finished all my pre-med requirements while being a student athlete. Now that I was actually in the thick of it, I began to realize the difficulty of that ideal.
As someone with a strong religious background, I turned to God for guidance, and in my searching, I began to realize that God might be teaching me a lesson that not everything would always go according to my plans.
Although I was beginning to accept that my life might be heading in a different direction than I originally planned, it still scared me to take a leap of faith and quit the swim team. I prayed and consulted with others for about three months, seeking advice on what to do.
At the end of those three months, I came to the conclusion that this feeling of being burned out and tired was valid and true, and it was time for me to close the chapter on my swimming career. I would miss the friends I made and the special environment that I was a part of, but this decision would make me a lot happier during the last two years of my college life.
So in May of 2022, I officially ended my competitive swimming career. I left feeling liberated but sad, as if the shackles that bound much of my life were finally gone, but by this time I had almost grown fond of these bindings. Regardless, I am happy now, and I know I made the right decision.
With all my free time this semester, I have been able to join clubs such as the Blue Orchids Chinese dance team and Tutorial Project, play with kids as a Child Life volunteer in the hospital and lead a small group for my church.
Although with the inclusion of these new activities, I am now just as busy as I was when I was swimming, I am so much happier with where I am in life. I learned to take that leap of faith. You never know where it will lead you.
Anni Fan is a junior from Allen, Texas, majoring in Public Health.