I am a wedding photographer based in Fresno, CA. For the past 3 years I have been capturing adventurous love stories and helping others feel loved and supported throughout their wedding experience. If there isn't a camera in my hand, you would find me watching Friends or The Office, eating Chick-fil-A, and hanging our with my hubby and puppy.
At the age of five, my parents decided that my sister and I join our summer league swim team. I didn’t want to do it, but once I saw my sister swimming, I just had to follow in her footsteps. Thus began my long journey of swimming; my identity as a result of lots of physical and emotional pain, perseverance, joy, along with my greatest accomplishments.
To start, swimming was fun and rewarding! I was blessed with a great rec and club coach that made swimming more enjoyable. I got to see my friends every day at practice and even improve my times almost every time I swam in a meet. I remember my dad challenging to me to swim the 25-yard butterfly with no breaths, I was super scared to fail but overcame the fear and I DID IT! It was really rewarding setting a goal and surpassing it, I felt so accomplished.
As I got older, I was introduced to water polo, which is pretty much swimming around with a ball and people drowning you the whole time. Water polo gave me a break from the routine of swimming and gave me a few years to actually enjoy both sports. I was fortunate to have an amazing coach in high school and an awesome team that was undefeated in league four years in a row, 48-0!
This is when I grew a big head. Friends and family telling me how talented I was and I happily soaked it all in while trying to be humble. However, God saw my real thoughts of pride. I suffered a shoulder injury in my junior year of water polo and it took me out of my junior season of swimming. With this surgery, I learned I was capable of more than just my athletic talent, but also in developing deeper relationships.
When senior year came around, I was determined to get stronger and faster for college. I joined an elite swim club where my coach helped me get into college with a swimming scholarship at Fresno Pacific. Freshman year of college was a dream come true for any athlete; personal bests in all events and 2nd Place in Conference! I was on cloud nine!
Once again, I had people telling me how fast I was and my head swelled again. I was strong and in control, so when everything was going great… injury number two crushed me. Swimming butterfly at practice, I dislocated my shoulder. After constant pain and numerous doctor appointments, the orthopedist finally said I had torn my labrum and needed surgery, same as before but this time was my left shoulder. Welp, there goes another swim season wasted and more painful physical therapy. But hey, I was fine, right?
As this recovery went on, I started to lose who I was. With no swimming, my identity fell on the closest person to me, my ex-boyfriend. As soon as I recovered and started swimming in my junior year, I hyper-extended my elbow and damaged some nerves and needed yet another surgery. This is when I felt my life was over. How silly it sounds now, but at the time, I didn’t know what to do with who I was. Swimming was gone and I didn’t have someone to rely on anymore. I felt lost, alone, and hopeless. Enter deep depression.
So now is the time when I talk about my heroic comeback! HA, that’s what I thought too! After my 3rd surgery, I was slowly learning to love myself for who I am, not “the swimmer”. I was going to counseling and talking to tons of friends, family, mentors, and praying a lot. Really getting back on my feet and then BOOM, RE-tore my labrum playing ULTIMATE FRISBEE!! Like what?! Such a freak accident! That was at the end of junior year and so begins the road to recovery AGAIN post-surgery #4. Like, why God?? I was helping myself and being faithful, doing all the things I was supposed to be doing and I get injured AGAIN?? Cool.
I’ve never been known as a quitter. My parents didn’t raise me that way and my coaches always pushed me to do my best. But not this time. This time my body and mind were DONE. I didn’t want to get back into a pool ever again. The fear of re-injury, the fear of being too prideful if I got better, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of quitting and wondering what I could have done, the fear of getting hurt by something I loved my whole life (swimming). There was fear in my faith, there was fear in my body, and there was fear in my mind. Who can blame a girl right?!
Everyone supported my decision if I wanted to swim or if I didn’t want to swim so that didn’t help me decide. As I was going through PT and recovery, I had all summer to think about what I wanted to do. I talked again to lots of people and journaled every day, hoping to find my answer right in front of me. It wasn’t until a conversation with my sister and one with my youth pastor that I understood what I wanted. My sister asked me, “What decision takes the most courage to do?” My youth pastor told me, “No matter what, if you try, you will be okay.” I knew deep down, I was afraid of swimming again and not being where I used to be as well as getting injured again. In spite of those fears… I decided to swim my senior year, to end my swimming career right.
NEW MINDSET ACTIVATED!! Let Go and Let God! Every practice could be your last, so do your best every day. Don’t compare yourself to others OR your old self because you are on different stages of life. All you can do is your best and that is good enough for yourself. Be proud of those on your team that are accomplishing big things, it will help to not be so jealous. HAVE FUN!! I was really slow at the beginning, like really slow! I had lost all my muscle and strength. I focused on what I could do better than I did the day before.
Slowly but surely, with my new mindset, I was able to get faster and faster each meet and practice with knowing that every swim could be my last so why not do my best? Then I realized I was actually going kind of fast! I was able to earn my way on the “A” relay and go to Nationals for my final meet. Thank the LORD! Honestly, I would not have gotten as far as I did without God, family, friends, and mentors.
Because of swimming, I realized who I am. I am not ‘the swimmer’ but swimming has made me who I am today. I learned perseverance, positivity, and how to build relationships through this sport. I am able to help other athletes that struggle through identity with their injury and I am able to help those going through depression. I thank God for the physical and mental pain I went through because, without this journey, I wouldn’t be who I am today.