From the first time I felt the water, I’ve loved to swim. I competed in my first swim meet when I was just four years old, and I swam through most of my childhood, racing at the state, national and international levels. Growing up a top-tier athlete, I found confidence came easy to me. I quickly learned that the hard work I put in led to success. How could I live in self-doubt when I knew I was fully capable of achieving my goals?
It wasn’t until I was a junior in college, swimming at my dream school, five days before my biggest meet of the season, that my self-assurance was shaken. It was the dawn of the Corona Virus pandemic, and the NCAA Championships were canceled. Everything I’d worked for, all the training I had put in that whole year, was for nothing.
I felt lost. For once, I was unsure of what my future held. I didn’t know whether I should have sat back and watched the world unfold or keep trucking on, acting like nothing had changed. My teammates moved on to other things, focusing on school and spending time with their families. But I refused to slow down.
I kept swimming, sometimes with a teammate and sometimes alone, until the pools were closed. I kept training in the gym, lifting at a safe distance from others, until even they were closed. It was when the whole world shut down and seemed to leave me behind that I felt my grip on life slipping. Who was I without swimming? Without racing? Without knowing that each day had a purpose and brought me one step closer to reaching my goals? Could I be the confident, unrelenting Taylor I knew without my sport?
I wanted to run away, to escape the closures, the disappointments, the uncertainty. I wanted to find a place where I could regain control of my life. The idea of going hiking seemed to come out of nowhere. I’d never been much of an outdoorsy girl, and my experience with trails was little to none. But something about getting lost in the woods made me weightless. It would give me the feeling I hadn’t had in a while: freedom.
On the day of my hike, I started my drive to Colorado Bend State Park in Bend, Texas. After three hours of driving through a torrential downpour, I finally arrived and was in disbelief at what I saw: the bridge at the entrance of the park was completely flooded. The overflowing Cherokee River was roaring over the road and crashing down into the valley below. The water was close to four feet deep, impossible to cross even for a truck in four-wheel drive.
I was devastated. How could nature be taken away from someone? How could all of my disappointments lead to this: a final crushing blow? I finally let myself grieve, for my lost swim meet, for my lost wilderness of freedom, for my lost sense of security. Somehow, I would have to let go of who I thought I was and find a new purpose within myself. But how could I? After living my entire life controlling my own destiny, how could I find my confidence when the circumstances were unknown?
I resolved to walk back to my car, having stepped out next to the water in my disbelief. Suddenly, I heard yelling from behind me and turned around. A car was attempting to cross the flooded bridge. Others warned him to turn around, but the jeep continued to inch across the rushing water. I watched as the relentless river pushed the head of the car off course, turning him sideways and dipping down off the bridge’s edge. I screamed in fear, but there was nothing I could do. The jeep tried to stay in place, but the water was merciless. The back of the car was swept up in the waves and the vehicle was thrown into the white water below. The riders remained trapped inside as the jeep bounced down the river like a common piece of drift wood.
It was when they disappeared around a bend that I was finally able to grasp what had just occurred. Not only the events of the floating car, but the message that the river was sending out: nature cannot be stopped. It cannot be shut down. And it cannot be contained. Nature cannot be controlled by mankind; it will always have more power than we could ever have.
And all of a sudden, a wave of realization crashed over me. I could never be fully in control because it was the world around me that would always be altering my circumstances. As long as I kept fighting it, life would keep changing my path and leading me towards disappointment. I would always be inferior to life’s twists and turns, and instead of resisting it, trying to cross a raging river, I should slow down and float to wherever it took me.
Now, I see nature much differently. It is where I go when I forget to look at the big picture. It is where I go when I am filled with disappointment or when life keeps tearing me a new one. It is where I go to get out of my own head and become untamed. It’s where I go to remember that greatness is all around us. We just have to go find it.
Here is where you can read about all the greatness I’ve found and tips and tricks on how to get there. I’m so glad you can join me for my next great adventure. Now go have an even better one!