I loved gliding underwater with my eyes closed, imagining that there was nothing around me but darkness and the sound of sloshing. But I hated going to a two-hour practice every weekday. I hated that when I included changing and driving time, water polo took three hours out of my day.
In high school, I hated that my lunch consisted of a chocolate milk carton, a sandwich or wrap, a bag of chips, two clementines, a bag of nuts, fruit snacks and a bottle of water. It was twice what other girls had for lunch and I ate all of it each day. I hated that I ate two dinners. I hated that I had little time to read. But I loved how the water flushed all the thoughts out of my head until I thought of a word: Hush. The word would bob and float, and the sound of it would be slight even though it was alone.
Reading is the second defining characteristic of my life. You might think that you understand what it means to be a reader, but I read the way I eat when it’s water polo season. I slurp down stories and books as if they’re pasta and my stomach is bottomless. I read around 200 books a year.
There are so many books out there – and I won’t be able to read all of them! This thought panicked me when I played water polo. All I did was read and play. The rest of my life was forced into the cracks between the two of these activities, one willing and the other forced. I probably could have stopped water polo but years of playing made it my commitment and I felt as if I needed my family’s permission to stop.
When I came to college, I said to myself, “No more. It’s enough. You don’t have to play anymore.” And I didn’t – until sophomore year, when I sought out the girls’ club team. I felt giddy as I jumped in the pool and screamed underwater. Pure delight rose to the surface with my air bubbles.