Dear Wheaton Athletes,
So much has happened as the globe tries to come to grips with how an International Pandemic Crisis invades daily life. This microscopic virus is bringing economies to its knees, changing how we communicate with each other, and moving our work and school into our homes. It also drastically altered the plans, dreams, and hopes you had in store for your last year or spring semester of college.
When sporting events were canceled in March, I felt the loss of so many goals, accomplishments, and memories; not only for you all. I felt the loss of weddings and memorial services that could not happen, for vacation plans postponed or ruined, for money lost, and, especially, for people having to go back home, for whom home is not a safe space. My heart sunk as I listened to NPR on my way to work, feeling everyone's sadness.
Sometimes it is hard to give yourself permission to feel sad about missing your senior national championship meet, or your entire senior season, when there are entire generations of humans dying or people thrust suddenly into dire economic circumstances. But I want to give you permission to grieve your Senior season, your National Meet, or your final semester; those feelings are real and they are part of your story. It feels so very final and broken because it did not end the way you thought it would. It's important to know that you are allowed to grieve this loss. Feel your feelings, own them - make them part of who you are. Not grieving will paralyze you from moving forward.
However, what I truly want you to hear, right now, is that your athletic (or acting, or musical or research) career is NOT over - not by a longshot. You can move forward.
You can continue to follow your athletic passions into your post-college adult life. There are so many opportunities, experiences, and, most importantly, people, that you do not yet know, that you could not possibly fathom, who will become part of your life and bring you so much joy.
For example, two years after I graduated from Wheaton, I was missing the routine swimming created(and also the metabolism that accompanied it). I found US Masters Swimming. At my local Y, I met the most wonderful people, who welcomed me with open arms; adults swimming for fun - some slow and some exceptionally fast! And while I got to train and be fit, I also met the people who have now been my friends for 20+ years! I even held my wedding at one of their homes!
Through Masters, I found Triathlon. I learned how to ride a bike, how to run with better form, and how to train. And I loved it. I was one of the original members of Team Envision - Boston's premiere all-womens' triathlon team and these amazing women gave me the courage to complete an Ironman in the summer of 2003.
Although I have stopped racing triathlon seriously, I have remained connected to swimming in new ways. In 2015, I became the head coach of Vermont's largest Masters Swim Team. I am helping new triathletes learn how to navigate open water swimming, and I am also teaching adults, who never learned how to swim, ways to gain the courage to tackle their fear of the water.
And these new facets of swimming, which I had no idea would be part of my life, are just as meaningful, if not more so, than anything I did in college. These new parts of my life are full of meaning, both for me, and the people with whom I work. I promise you that it is just as thrilling to watch a non-swimmer put their face in the water, as it is to win a relay at championships.
Does losing your spring season hurt - yes it does.
I promise, it is possible to continue to create goals and to train to meet or beat them, and I know you will. Learn about Dara Tores, or Diana Nayiad - women who stepped up and crushed their goals well into their middle lives! You can still compete, race, and do amazing things!
With some research, you will find that you can give back to your sport in new, meaningful, and appreciative ways. In fact, there are ways you can help, right now. Giving back will only fuel your passion for the sport and drive you closer to your own goals, and perhaps create new ones.
I wish you only the best moving forward, and I hope that you can find some promise and joy as you look ahead.
Emily McHugh Mitchell '94