Today marks eighteen weeks since my first knee surgery and two weeks from my second surgery. Having two knee surgeries within four months is not something I would wish on anyone because of how many challenges I have faced. Every day I face something new. Whether it be learning how to walk again, squatting, stairs, swimming, biking, you name it.

I feel emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. Honestly there are a lot of days that I would rather just stay in bed and avoid life at all costs. But I thought of something.

Life doesn’t stop for anyone. No matter what it keeps going.

I think the most difficult part about all of my knee surgeries and problems is that it feels as though adversity wants to see you fail. Most humans struggle with change in any patterns of their life, we enjoy comfort and stability. But when we are faced with adversity, it is easy to fall apart.

It is easy to listen to the negative voices that scream inside your head. It was really easy for me to listen to my surgeon. He said there was a good chance I may never swim at the caliber I had trained my whole life forever again. Let alone even swim ever again.

Doctors said I may never be able to swim over 5,000 yards a practice or do things I was able to do before. They said I may not be able to swim breaststroke or feel normal until about a year after my surgery. Well, I don’t have a year because my last go around starts in a few weeks, and you better bet I’m giving it all I have.

Against any odds.

After my first knee surgery I spent over ten weeks on crutches and eleven weeks out of the pool and it tore me apart almost every single day. Like I said, some days it was really hard to get out of bed. It seemed like I had a case of bad news and bad luck because I faced a lot of setbacks and disappointments. I watched the muscles in my leg atrophy away, losing any sense of motivation for return to swimming.

I was pretty set on quitting for a long time. There were days that I wish I could describe the kind of internal and external pain I felt to my teammates. I felt as though I was letting them down every single day I spent on crutches. Missing out on swimming and lack of spending time with them made me feel as though I really was losing everything.

Knee surgeries couldn’t keep me down.

…I pushed through those long days on crutches, and past the frustrating moments where I struggled greatly with my pride. I owe so much, actually everything, to those who picked me up on my darkest of days.

After my first surgery I was swimming up to almost 5,000 meters within a week of my return. In less than five weeks after I had started swimming and walking, I did my first start, and my first race within 24 hours of each other. That swim was the proudest I have ever been of myself because it represented everything I struggled through for months. The anxiety, the depression, the pain, and everything that came with it.

Surgeries take a toll on your life and really causes you to re-evaluate what you truly value. Losing the ability to do things you love with those you love, such as even just walking, makes you appreciate a lot more than dating the hottest person or finding a new bar downtown. I had to grow up a lot during that time and make some tough choices but the growth was good for me.

That swim was the most proud I have ever been of myself because it represented everything I struggled through for months. The anxiety, the depression, the pain and everything that came with it.

I certainly didn’t go my best time, and I certainly am still extremely out of shape but that swim changed a lot for me. I believed in myself again which was the most important thing I had lost during my time away from the team. It gave me a lot of hope to still be a good swimmer, but above that, to be a good leader. A great teammate. An even better friend. The look on the faces of my coaches who were in awe made it all worth it.

The end that brings a new beginning.

Two weeks ago I underwent my second knee surgery, and hopefully last knee surgery (maybe surgery ever??), and it was far from easy. I think we all thought I would do so well because of how tough my first surgery was but we were all wrong. Adversity gave me some new challenges and new doubts that could chew me up in an instant. This time I embrace them and I challenge these doubts this time.

I was told I could be off crutches hopefully before school starts. Well, I got off them today and dang does it feel good (and horribly weird) to start walking again. Doctors said stairs, squats, turns, sitting, standing, etc. was going to be hard, but I’m sure I can do it. I am confident that my knee surgeries have only made me stronger.

They said it could be maybe over a month or so until I can do turns again, but I’m sure I’ll be there before then. They said it could be months until I am fully recovered. Attitude is everything, I’m sure I’ll be recovered before then.

Doctors said it could be impossible to train to the caliber I expect of myself or to swim at the national level again. That’s hard to do even without knee surgeries when you’ve been out of the water for months.

It’s over. Finally. Five years of painful injuries, causing hundreds of setbacks in every area of my life, and two surgeries. I welcome the endless possibilities of what I can achieve. If I can’t accomplish the goals I set for swimming, then I will be the best teammate, cheerleader, and team leader that I can be. I aim to be the best version of myself in and out of the pool. If I learned anything from my time away from the pool life is more than swimming and more about relationships.

So cheers to the end that brings a new beginning. Full of endless opportunities and amazing people who I am blessed to call friends and family.

Always keep going.

If I learned anything from this season of life, no matter what, put your best foot forward and keep going. Life gives lemons, but it also throws curve balls. Be ready for whatever may come your way, good or bad. It is going to be hard, actually it is going to be hell. But that is a part of life- going through the bad to appreciate the good you get in your life. Make the effort to live as normal as you can during the hard times you face.

Waking up another day is a blessing because we get another chance to live. Every day is a new opportunity to do something or be someone. Yes life is unfair but there is a reason for that season of life. A silver lining.

It’s important to keep going because life certainly does. Continue being who you are, and continue changing the lives of those around you. Astonish a world full of hate and sadness. Refuse to let it get you down despite circumstances. Stare your demon down and challenge the pain it brings.

Growth is painful. Rejection certainly sucks. Staying in the same place is worse and more painful. Don’t let it overcome you and take away who you are. Even with my circumstances, I refused to let it change my hopes and dreams. If anything, I now dream bigger and I have more hope.