Although I used to believe that it was my successes that made my swimming career outstanding, as time went on, I realized that the challenges are what shaped me into a stronger, more independent, and a more confident professional athlete. Ages 11-13, I was the star of my group. Everything came easily: grades, swimming times, personal records. The beginning of my high school career, however, marked a new chapter in my life. A competitive school collided with a competitive swim schedule, and I had to quickly adapt and develop outstanding time management and leadership qualities. While my peers spent hours on Netflix catching up with shows, I spent my hours at the gym, scheduling study and research sessions, and determining my priorities. I believe that it was only when I learned to work for my success was when I truly became a professional athlete
Broadening my horizons was the best decision I made in my high school. I switched teams, switched my practice style, switched my focus stroke, and switched my outlook on both school and swim. On my new team, instead of competing once a month, I competed once a week. I started focusing on putting effort into what I do and setting an example for the younger swimmers in my group. Nothing came easily, which meant that I had to care about what I did instead of just letting my parents and my coaches drag me through practices and through school. This is what marks my development from a casual swimmer into an elite athlete.
Academically, instead of focusing on how different my school was from what I was used to, I learned to explore these differences and use them to my advantage. From various programs (such as the surgical program in Englewood,something not available to most high schoolers) to the unique Bio-safety 2 lab that I absolutely adore, I was able to find inspiration and a drive to pursue a future career in medical research. After spending hours and hours in the lab researching cancer treatments and testing different theories, asking for late passes over and over again because of how enthralled I was by the procedure I was doing, I was able to set a goal for my future career and education. By stepping out of my comfort zone and exploring new opportunities, I was able to find what drives me to pursue a career as a medical/pharmaceutical researcher and strive for a good education.
Thus, it is my adaptability and my ability to overcome hardships (and learn something from them!) that sets me apart from other recruits. The challenges that I experienced didn't bring me down, they only helped me grow. I have been able to clearly visualize exactly what I wanted from both my swimming career and my high school career. I chose what I worked for, and I chose to fight to keep swimming a part of my life, instead of dropping out as soon as my academics became more rigorous. Curiously, something I have noticed at competitions (especially big competitions) is that the less fun you have, the worse you do. This is also applicable to education and school. If you find something that brings you joy, like research is for me, it is impossible to hate learning and it brings you closer to your goals.