This I Believe

Elizabeth - LaGrange, Illinois
Entered on February 25, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

The medals are probably gathering dust in some obscure corner of the house. At one time they sat polished, gleaming in the sunlight, standing proudly for everyone to know why they were there. I earned those, I would say when I looked at them. I was proud of what I had accomplished.

I used to believe that I was a swimmer, put on this Earth to do nothing but freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. I reached the goals I had set for myself by the age of ten; I was going to state. The best part about my success was that my dad also believed in me. His support and encouragement strengthened my desire to win. Before the race, my dad came up to me and hugged me. He whispered in my ear, “Win or lose, I will still love you. I believe in you.”

That day, I pushed myself harder than I ever had before: perfect form, perfect flipturns, and a perfect win. I took second at state and moved on to the national competition in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. As my event was called, my dad ran over, hugged me, and repeated his words: I believe in you. I took ninth in my event but my dad’s smile couldn’t have been bigger had I actually won. I took my medal and that memory of the look on his face back home with me and continued to triumph in local races.

Five years later, in the heat of August, it was time to begin training for the high school team. Practices consumed the last precious weeks of that summer. Something was horribly wrong, though. I could still swim as fast as ever and I still had the power to win, but I had stopped believing in myself. Some have said I just burned out, but I’m not sure. My coach believed in me. My teammates believed in me. My dad believed in me. I turned away from the pool when its waters taunted me. I gave up on myself. My passion for the sport was gone.

When I finally decided to tell my dad, he looked at me in horror. His face crumbled as the light that once lit up his face was gone; he looked so ashamed. He couldn’t understand how I could just quit after working so hard. He still believed I could be great. His dreams of my success were shattered.

I believe that beliefs can change. Though at one time me and my dad’s beliefs ran parallel to each other, they suddenly ran in opposite directions; he kept on having the highest hopes for me long after I stopped believing. I knew I would never love swimming again the way I used to. Sometimes I still hear his words echoing in my ear and it tears me apart to know that I will never race again. I believe in you. My beliefs had changed and the worst moment in my life was when my dad’s didn’t.