Trudging into school after a zombifying morning practice with wet hair and unmistakable eye bags, I was practically begging people for their pity. With my moping, melodramatic gaze, I was imploring my peers to ask, “What’s wrong? Why do you look so tired? Oh wow…you had to swim at 5 in the morning? That must be terrible.” The team suit was a badge of honor for my trials and self-sacrifice, and I loved playing the martyr. But one can only play the role of the sufferer for so long.
This selfish love for sympathy and admiration could never outweigh the physical and mental toll of this unforgiving sport. As high school swim season progressed, I’d come home more drained, exhausted, and utterly in despair about the clock ticking away as my homework sat untouched. I would wake up at the crack of dawn, swim for two hours, rack my brain in challenging classes, swim for another two hours, clamber home to do homework, get a meager amount of sleep, then finally repeat. This once fun activity of my childhood had greedily consumed my life, leaving it barren of passion and leisure. And as a result, my love for singing and acting were pushed to the side into a corner of neglect. The thought of swim practice became a dark storm cloud over my head, burdening me with this laborious chore and sucking some of the joy from my high school experience. Just like in a cliche cartoon, it loomed over my head wherever I went, but I was too terrified to shake it off or blow it away. The opinions of my coach, teammates, and college admission boards if I quit held me hostage, and because of my damaging pride, I stuck around for two whole years. “Giving up” has an awfully negative connotation in society, and this stigma left me feeling trapped and ridiculously obligated. To receive harsh judgement and disappointment from my others was something I didn’t think I could bare. As long as I suffered through high school and impressed my superiors, I envisioned a prosperous, successful future. Little did I know that I was digging myself into a deep hole that could only be escaped through grit and strength
It is true that life is sometimes about toughening up and doing things you don’t want to do, whether it’s a minumum wage job at McDonald’s or a mind-numbing chemistry project about oxidation. However, when it comes to free time, why would anyone settle for anything less than genuine passion? Too often teenagers such as myself view high school as this rickety, taxing, slippery path to the world of adulthood. As we slave away in order to dazzle up our resumés, the excitement and experimentation of high school flies by in a heartbeat. For me, teenage years became all about the future and never about the present. It all seemed like this large-scale domino effect; if I wasn't a varsity athlete and team captain, then I wasn't demonstrating leadership, and then I wouldn't be accepted into a prestigious college, and then I wouldn't get a good job, and then I wouldn't leave my mark on this world, and then I'd be a failure. Before joining a club, my skewed reaction was to ask, “Do colleges like this?” instead of “Do I like this?”
Although it should have been laughably simple, the difficult decision to quit swimming filled me with unnecessary anxiety and nerves. I could barely muster up the courage to send my coach the “heart wrenching” news. When he graciously responded to assure me that I would be missed and to wish me the best of luck in my future endeavours, part of me felt like a paranoid imbecile who had built up a mountain of stress for nothing. But still another part felt like a liberated, reborn individual who had just cleared her slate. No more fraudulence or feigned happiness.
As I now pursue my love for theatre and the fine arts after school, this heavy, gloomy storm cloud above my head has evaporated, instead replaced by a vibrant sun. Coming home from an adrenaline-fueled rehearsal, I’m high off both the thrill of performing and the contentment of contributing to a beautiful community of students. Although the set-building can prove tedious and the nights are sometimes tortuously long, the end result fills us with a sense of wonder and accomplishment. I've made powerful bonds that I'm sure will last throughout highschool and beyond. By surrounding myself with such an accepting, distinct group, I've opened my mind and a door to new possibilities.
No one can deny the fact that movies glamorize high school life to the utmost extreme. It's not actually centered around outrageous parties or dramatic romances, but they did manage to get certain things right; it should be about maturing, discovering an identity, and crafting wonderful memories. Theatre has been a niche that improves my leadership, keeps me in tune with my emotions, and crafts my character. For every past day of distress, there’s now one of adrenaline and excitement. For every previous moment of despair, there’s now one of hope and proud accomplishment. For every earlier second of numbness, there’s now one of action and genuine passion. The day I decided to make high school more than just a laborious, ugly trek was the day I started living life without regrets.
I choose honest enjoyment over martyrdom anyday.