Featuring...

Featured Friday: Just Keep Swimming

Aloha Friday! Welcome, welcome friends! It is good for you to be here! Today is Featured Friday, which means that we have the unique and wonderful opportunity to throw the spotlight on someone else for the day to share something they are itching to tell the world! How cool is that? A couple weeks back, my dear friend Lora joined us here on This Darling Adventure brought to our attention some awesome thoughts in her post Just Start. Well, I am so excited to say that today we get to welcome her back! So without further adieu, let’s do this!

Leader.

Let’s take a moment and review the multiple pictures that flicker by at that one word. 

Leader. It can be found plastered to classroom walls, or making its way through the plot of a good book. It is among athletes of all sports, and the heroes of our time. It is the mom and the dad sacrificing for their family and the soldier for their country. It stands with the lone man or woman whose actions speak louder than words. It is a person of strength, character, and is coated in humility. 

Leader: we see it, feel it, and read it. It is a responsibility, action, and trait. Defined by all cultures, though in different words and standards, a leader is a presence we all know. But although a leader is a strength we find all around us, it can be hard to find it within us. This I know from experience. When you digest all the images that arise when thinking of the word leader it can assume an ethereal status. Like an unobtainable stature of a person who succeeded in great feats, such as Martin Luther King Jr., and his mark on the history of equality. Or Joan of Arc, a woman warrior, leading France to victory with Charles VII returned to the thrown. And a favorite of mine, Steve Irwin and the voice he gave to creatures of all shapes, sizes, poisons, and bite power. But there is one thing we all have in common with those we have placed high in a seat of honor: they are human. Which means they are as vulnerable as you or I. The only thing that separates us is a decision.

 A leader is by no means a special blend that only a few possess. Just the opposite, it is available to any and all who are willing to pursue it. All you have to do is decide. For myself I have always been in a leading position by default. I am the eldest of four siblings and all the cousins so I had lots of babysitting practice. But I was mostly content to sit in the background with a good book and tune it all out.  It wasn’t until my college years that I met leadership head on. I was a water polo athlete and a sophomore, when a decision was placed before me. 

 It was right in the thick of hell week (when you train extra long and extra hard for typically two weeks instead of the one implied by the name) and I had just returned from my study abroad so I was conveniently out of shape from missing pre-season. My heart was heavy because I had been living a dream on the other side of the world and was quite happy to have stayed where I was. But I was drawn back to my team and found myself leaking tears into my goggles as I swam yet another 100 working my way through the 5 (10×100 on 1:20) swim set. For those unfamiliar with swimmer talk you swim a lot of laps really fast and then take a break and repeat the whole thing 5 times. 5,000 yards of swimming translates into a very mentally tough swim set. I was by no means mentally tough at this stage in the game. In fact I couldn’t even make 10×100 on 1:30, instead I was pulling on average 1:35-40 times on my 100’s. 

This left me sticking out like a sore thumb and scorned in many of my new teammates eyes because I had missed all the pre-season workouts and struggles. In that particular moment, being the last one to touch the wall and feeling the heat of cranky teammates, all I could think about was: How was I supposed to survive? The physical and mental pain was breaking me in and breaking me down. I was at the point where I didn’t believe I was going to make it because my heart was far from the pool I was in. 

Have you ever been in a scenario like this one? Where you feel like the odds are stacking up against you and you’re fighting a losing battle where even you do not believe in yourself? There are many who find themselves in a place of lost faith, being crushed under the weight of it all. But this is where that strength comes in, a beautiful strength that every person possesses in their own unique way. You just have to be willing to decide to take it. 

I would not have been dying in that pool, struggling to finish every lap no matter how far behind I was, if not for my coach. She had Skyped me while I was across the world and asked me to step up as a leader and become a positive influence on the team. Easier said than done, but I believed in her words and boarded my plane to L.A. knowing I had a great task to accomplish. I may have been one of the younger girls, 19 going on 20, but she had chosen me to stand up and lead. 

So there I was at a crossroads: was I going to let defeat conquer me or was I going to dig in and rise up? I had a decision to make and it began with my realization that a leader is not a perfect specimen. I had been letting this idea of greatness and perfection crush my spirit because I could not obtain it. I had to recognize that I needed to go through the process of becoming. Somewhere in the thick of the battle I accepted my weaknesses as a challenge. This was my moment to grow and with fire determination I was going to put my head down and grow. 

Once my heart settled on this thought my journey became much easier. I was happy to push through knowing I would come out better on the other side. Little by little, I worked my way up the pool lanes as my times became faster. In my travel across the pool I met each new girl and swam beside her in encouragement and joy, trying to help lighten the heavy mood of the hell weeks we had to endure. Finally, I was swimming with the girls in the fastest time bracket. I started at the bottom, and I gave myself grace to make mistakes and be imperfect, and then I went for it! There were many more trials to come but that particular hell week experience is what set the pace for the remaining three water polo seasons. 

We each have our own hell week that we face and sometimes its like mine where it drags on far beyond one week. But that’s okay; these experiences are opportunities for greatness. Who cares what others think of you or the expectations that are placed on you. When you’ve decided something in your heart, nothing can stop you! There are many flavors of leadership, mine happens to stem from sports but there are leaders of all kinds. For those out there that claim that they are not a leader and could never be a leader, I want to encourage you to take another look. You are the main character of your story and you have a strength that is unique to you, no one else is like you. Do not hold back sharing your gifts because of a false belief that a leader is someone of greater strength and skill than you. Make your decision, believe in yourself, and take on the opportunity of growth. You will be surprised of how well your inner strength stands up and leads.  

You are a Leader.

-Lora

Well, thank you again for being here today! As always, please feel free to comment below! It is such a pleasure to hear from you! And most importantly, have a beautiful weekend filled with adventure and whimsy! 🙂

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