Language Arts Letter: Anxiety
I know it’s been a while since I last wrote a post. I’ve been really busy with school projects and swimming. As summer comes along I should be posting a lot more, I promise! Anyway, a month or so ago I wrote an essay for my Language Arts class talking about anxiety. The main story in the essay is from the Illinois Long Course State Meet 2015, focusing on one event, the 100 Meter Freestyle. I hope you enjoy!
Anxiety. Anxiety is a thing that happens to most people. You could be anxious about a paper due tomorrow, a math test that you need to study for, a basketball game the next morning, or in my case a very important swim meet. But, the hard part is dealing with that pressure and overcoming the obstacle that is blocking the road to accomplishment.
Last summer, I competed in the Illinois state swim meet, which started at seven o’clock in the morning. “Parker, it’s time to wake up!” I heard my mother say softly. I rolled over to check the time. I turned on my phone only to be blinded by the light of the screen. Once my eyes recovered, I saw the time. 5:41 AM. “Ugh,” I thought to myself.” Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep, I slowly got up and started to get ready, feeling a bit anxious.
45 minutes later, I arrived at the pool. It was the first of four days of the Illinois state meet. I had one event to swim, the 100 Meter freestyle. I was ranked first by only a couple tenths of a second, and I was nervous. I walked in, met with my teammates and coach, and then we started to warm up.
After a while of waiting, it was finally time for me to swim the prelims. The prelims were set up so I didn’t get to race the man ranked second, Elliot Chen. This race was to get into finals, and I was already ranked first, so I wasn’t that worried. All I had to do was swim right around my best time to get into finals.
“Heat 5 of 6, please step up onto the blocks,” the official said through the microphone. This was the heat Elliot was in. If I wanted to be seeded first into finals, I would have to beat the time he swims now. I watch him step onto the blocks, dive in and swim the event.
58 seconds later, he hit the wall, first of course. I looked up at the board to see a time of 58.18, a time just under a second faster than mine. “Heat 6 of 6, please step up,” the official said once more. I nervously adjust my goggles one last time and get ready to swim.
“Take your mark!” I tensed my muscles. Doing that somehow washed all of that anxiety away, and I was ready to swim.
“Beep!” the machine sounded as I dive into the water. I sprinted, breathing only whenever I absolutely needed to. Once I got to the first wall, I did a flip turn and headed back to where I came from. I snuck a look at my competitors, and I was a mile ahead of them. My muscles were slowly starting to ache, and by the time I hit the wall they were burning.
I looked up to see a time of 58.42 with a 1, symbolizing first place next to it. It was a fast time, but not fast enough. I was seeded second into finals, but it was okay. I guess I loved being the underdog. Last season, I was ranked second going to finals in the 50 freestyle, but ended up beating my competitors by over half a second and winning the event. But, I can’t rely on that to get me the win. I have to do what I love to do; race.
I got out of the water and quickly talked to my coach before grabbing my swim bag and towel. All I wanted to do was go back to my hotel and take a nap before finals. I needed to claim my state title.
It was time. I was in the ready room adjusting my cap and goggles, anxious to swim my event. The heat before us had just gone out to swim and we were next. I was in lane 6 with Elliot to my left. All of a sudden, the music we walk on deck to, started to play. I jumped out of my trance and lined up.
I walked past my teammates and coaches, returning their supportive high-fives. I looked up into the stands and smiled at my parents, who gave me a smile in return. I arrived at my lane, took off my sweatpants and sweatshirt and stepped up towards the blocks. I heard the announcer call out the swimmers in each lane.
“Beep! Beep! Beep!” the whistle sounded, signaling that it was time to start the event and to step up onto the blocks. I touched my goggles one last time, to make sure they were on correctly, and then got ready. “Take your mark,” I heard the loudspeaker say. I tensed my muscles and focused on nothing but swimming.
“BEEP!” I dove into the water, pushing off the block with all of my might. I broke the surface after doing my dolphin kicks and took a quick breath. I could see out of the corner of my eye that Elliot was right next to me, everybody else close behind. I knew to push myself on the first lap anyway, as I will be tired coming back nonetheless. I took a breath and saw my coaches cheering me on from the sidelines.
I looked slightly up for a second to see the wall approaching. I ducked my head and kicked with all of my might then pushed off the wall. As I am turning back to my stomach, I see Elliot almost a body length ahead of me. I get angry and kick harder. Now, it’s just a competition to see who can hold out the longest.
I felt my arms and legs start to burn, but I ignored it. I knew that I had to keep going, or else all of those long, grueling swim practices would have been for nothing. As I take a breath, I can see that I am gaining on Elliot, and we are almost equal. This, encourages me, and I push harder. I see the wall coming closer and closer, and I know this is my last chance to win!
I kick and pull as hard as I possibly can and power into the wall. I jam my hand into the wall with all of my might and immediately look towards the scoreboard. I heard the crowd gasp in shock. I look towards the board to see two identical times in lanes five and six. I comprehend this and realize that somehow, Elliot Chen and I had just tied for first, by the exact hundredth of a second. I was shocked, just like everybody else. This is one of the rarest things to ever happen in swimming, and it just happened to me!
I have been through many stressful situations and still have more of them to come. In my opinion, anxiety is something that happens to everybody in some point of their lives. Overcoming anxiety or stress is what makes people stronger and helps them to learn from their experiences.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed. It was a lot of fun looking back on my summer experiences and sharing it with family and friends. As you can probably tell, I have redesigned my website! Please feel free to give any suggestions in the comments below.
Here is the link to the Live stream. To see the race, skip to the 25 minute mark. I am in Lane 6!