Our paths can seem so straight, unwavering
And there is all the certainty of undiluted promises
Made by universes trusted with our lives.
But sometimes universes glitch and sometimes they collide,
And then what do we do? Curl up and cry?
Pretend it didn’t happen? Try with all our might
To find our way back? Scrabbling through dark
And murky waters with no signposts or breadcrumbs
To help us along the way. We will diverge though,
Like it not, and please take my advice
And never wish that you were on their sexy road,
That reeks of money and gifts and lavish things,
Because that road of luxury will always come
With a price tag that you never saw.
I saw the opening ceremony for the Paralympics today and it reminded me of a girl that I used to race when I was a competitive swimmer. Ultimately, it reminded me that I sometimes need to stop looking at other people’s road to success and focus on my own, because you never know when the path you didn’t take could end in disaster.
This girl that I was reminded of was much faster than me and although we both represented England, it was obvious that she was destined for greater things. I eventually quit swimming and she carried on and started to represent Team GB. As I drifted away from swimming I lost track of what she was doing and just assumed she had continued on her very successful path. I was, of course, very jealous.
However, about seven years later I was handed a swimming magazine and this girl was featured as she was going to the Beijing Paralympics. I was obviously shocked that something really bad must have happened to my old friend.
Reading on, I found out that while swimming in an able bodied international meet she was kicked in her neck. If anyone saw the Olympic Open Water races you will appreciate just how rough some of those races can be. She ended up paralyzed on one side of her body.
She went on to win gold at the Paralympics but I wonder what the cost was to her? She doesn’t ever talk about the accident because she is traumatized and she is in and out of hospital with poor health.
I look back to when we were kids and how I was jealous of her talent and wished I could be on her path to certain glory. I haven’t won any gold medals but I’m healthy and I think when it comes down to it, her path is as far away from what I’d want for myself now.
I’m so proud of everything she achieved, but I’m glad I’m where I am.