Crew: My Obsession This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

February 22, 2012
My friends back home were looking at me, perplexed.
“Do people really cry during it?” one of them finally asked.

I nodded.

“And does it really feel that bad? Like you’re dying?”

I nodded again.

Then someone said, “Then why do you do it?”

Ask anyone who rows crew, and they’ll tell you: It’s an obsession, a rabid love that slowly began to control every single aspect of my life.

I carried around water bottles heavier than my textbooks. I needed to eat at least 4,000 calories a day, and I’m only a 5 foot 6 inch teenage girl. I used to talk about things like grades and weekend plans, but all of a sudden the main topic at dinner and during class was crew. I knew what pain felt like, and every time I saw an indoor rowing machine it would send shivers through my body. I have heard more people cry during a six-minute race than in an entire month – and I go to an all-girls boarding school. Sometimes, I wouldn’t be able to stand up in the morning because my abs were so sore, and my hands would be blue after rowing on a cold March day.

I had fallen in love.

When people say, “What do you like
to do?” all of a sudden my chest puffs up and I say, “I row crew.” It feels really good. I feel strong. Then they raise their eyebrows and say, “Why would you do that to yourself?”

Good question.

I think it might be the way the water feels when we’re rowing really, really hard and a splash hits me from a teammates’ oar. Maybe it’s that noise when my coxswain yells, “We’ve just beaten their seven seat and we’re coming ahead in the lead!” Or, perhaps it’s how unbelievably spectacular it is when the rain starts coming down, and everyone else is inside, but we’re out there on the water. It makes me feel alive.

Once, someone told me that if I was that obsessed with something, it couldn’t be healthy. They said, “When you start ­having contests to see who has the most blisters, when you can hear another boat screaming from a bridge away, when you almost fall in the freezing water because you’ve been rowing so hard – do you ever wonder if that’s healthy?”

And I say, “Yes, it is healthy. Love is healthy, isn’t it?”

Right, and then people ask me: “Why did you stop?”

Then, and only then, am I at loss for words.

Because here’s the thing: I feel free. But crew is my drug, and I’m addicted.

Why did I stop? I’m still trying to figure it out.

And sometimes, when I dream, I still hear my coxswain’s voice: “You are all angels, and your oars are your wings. Fly, so you can join the birds.”

I’m still trying to figure it out.

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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to.hold.the.sun This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 23, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Words can't really describe how spot-on this is with my feelings right now. There really is nothing in the world like PRing on a 2k, winning a race by .2 seconds so you know that every single stroke was worth it, beating out someone in a seat race and then collapsing on the floor afterwards because your burning legs can't hold you up anymore and choking on the air because your lungs can't take in enough air. It makes you feel invisible. Like nothing can touch you.

But then you realize ... (more »)

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