I recently had my first book published. Many friends have been very encouraging by telling me how proud they are of me. While I am grateful for their praise and support, the reality hasn’t really sunk in yet. I keep asking myself the question, why don’t I feel proud?
When I was younger, I swam on our neighborhood swim team. The team practiced every weekday morning throughout the summer. I loved swimming. I loved practicing with kids my own age and learning from the older ones. There was always an opportunity to push myself to be better. I loved competing at the swim meets where I could demonstrate the progress I’d made and bask in the glow of a hard-earned success. Any time I swam my hardest and won an event I felt deep feeling of accomplishment. It made me feel proud and reinforced the notion that all my hard work would pay off. Like many burgeoning young athlete, my early success in the pool lead to a childhood dream of competing in the Olympics. I could truly visualize myself swimming the vigorous lengths and emerging victorious, making my country proud.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve struggled with feeling such genuine pride in myself. I’m still very good at pushing myself to achieve my goals, but I often don’t allow myself to truly acknowledge my accomplishments. There have been some notable exceptions. Moving cross-country for a job when I was in my 20s made me feel proud. Traveling alone overseas for a few weeks in my early 30s made me feel proud. Speaking to parenting groups about what I’ve learned along the way made me feel proud. The common thread between these accomplishments was that I took a risk needing to know if I could do it. I knew if I didn’t try I would regret it. It made taking the risk greater and the reward taken from the accomplishment more satisfying. Yet, though I’ve written and had my first book published, which I never predicted or dreamt I would do, and the risk is quite possibly the greatest I’ve ever taken, the feeling of accomplishment hasn’t come, at least not yet.
Maybe it’s because this is a new beginning for me. It’s the first step toward the life I want to live, one in which I am more creative and able to push myself in more satisfying ways. Not just the life I’m feel I’m supposed to live—the one I accepted as a young adult that may or may not align with my true passion or calling. How many of us truly pursue our dreams as adults? It’s scary and overwhelming to go after what we really want–especially with a family to support–but what do we miss out on if we don’t push ourselves to try? Or perhaps it doesn’t fall into the category of something I needed to do and I wouldn’t have felt regret it if I hadn’t done it.
Maybe down the road, I will look back and feel proud that I was brave enough to take the first step and push myself to accomplish something I didn’t even know was possible. Maybe in the moment, I’m still feeling to vulnerable and nervous about the huge step I’m taking.
My dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer didn’t become a reality for a variety of reasons that were out of my control. As an adult I returned to my favorite sport when I joined a Masters league (a competitive swimming league for adults). With a lifetime of perspective between myself and my childhood ambition, I realized the reality that I’d never had the necessary leg strength needed to be an elite swimmer. I still love the sport and it comforts me to know that I avoided losing my entire childhood over a goal that wasn’t meant to be.
Writing feels like something that is much more in my control; fortunately there are no age limits or strength requirements. I decide what comes next on this journey for what comes next, another book or something else and determine how hard I need to push myself beyond this. I’m looking forward to what comes next and while I don’t know what the future holds; I do know that pushing myself to live the life I want to live helps me visualize myself emerging victorious.