Wasted Childhood? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I was sitting on the floor, shuffling cards. "What game do you guys want to play?" I asked mindlessly. We were hanging around in the locker room, waiting for a late swim practice to start.

"Rummy," somebody said. Rummy. That's a good game, I thought. I remembered playing it with my grandmother a few times. Funny, I thought, this is the first time I remember playing Rummy with my friends.

We finished the game. I won. Once again I found myself shuffling the cards. "Old Maid," someone answered my unasked question. I leaned forward to deal the cards. Wait a minute, I thought, I don't know how to play Old Maid. I said as much to my friends. "What?" they practically hollered. "Don't know how to play Old Maid? How about Fish, or Steal the Old Man's Pack?" I patiently explained that while I had heard of these games, I had no idea how to play. My friend said she had played these throughout her childhood; they were like second nature. She played with her family in her spare time. "What did you do in your childhood?" she asked, truly curious.

What had I done during my childhood? I tried to reconstruct a typical day. I could picture myself getting up, going upstairs and practicing my cello for a half hour. I remember the time for certain; how it dragged on. Then I ate breakfast with my family. We all piled into the car and Dad went to work, my sister, brother, and I to school, then my mom went back to the house to do whatever moms do.

I remember school for what it was worth: teachers, recess, fun. I remember coming home, crossing the street at the crosswalk, meeting my mom. I know when we got home, we watched two half-hour cartoons: He-Man at 2: 30 and Voltron at 3. Then at 3: 30, I left for swim team practice with my sister and brother until 6: 15.

I really loved those practices. I loved being in the water. I really thought I had to have been a dolphin in a past life to be able to love it so much. Mind you, some days I didn't feel like going, but once I was there, oh, what bliss! I always had plenty of friends to talk to and all types: quiet, loud, shy or obnoxious; the YMCA swim team had all kinds.

I'd get home from practice around quarter to seven, eat dinner, then to to bed. Wait a minute, I asked myself, When did I see my friends? Where was my free time. Saturdays, maybe? No, I had swim meets most Saturdays. Sunday? All I really remember was going to church on Sundays. I tried to remember what else I did besides swim and go to school, but I couldn't, for the life of me. Sure, I could recall isolated incidents, now hazy, of visiting a friend's house, but nothing else. I wandered into my middle school memories, but the only difference was that now there was an hour or two of homework before going to bed.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I spent the bulk of my childhood either at school or at swim team practices. Did I waste my childhood swimming? The horrifying thought hit me like a thunderbolt. I've thought a lot about this since that day. I've thought why I swam. I think it was because I loved it so much. I wondered why I didn't miss going to my friends' houses. But I realized that my best friends were also at practice. So, now I don't think I necessarily wasted my childhood, it's just that swimming was my childhood.

I'm not really upset about it. I don't think I would change anything if I could. I learned a lot in that pool. I learned that when someone passes you, you get this funny kind of hurt, deep inside. I learned that when when you win, you get a wonderful feeling that lasts a long time. I learned that when you get that bad feeling, your real friends are the ones who stand by you.

So now, I've reached the conclusion that I didn't waste my childhood. Well, at least not waste in a bad way. I learned a lot and had a great time at swim practice.

The next time I attended swim practice at my high school, as I mindlessly swam warm-up, I believe I had my final thoughts on the subject: I don't know how many hours I spent in the water during my childhood or whether or not those hours were wasted, but I still love the water. I must have been a dolphin in a past life. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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