On the wall of the Wisconsin erg bay there is a countdown clock that ticks away the seconds, minutes and hours until the B1G Ten Championship regatta. It’s supposed to be motivating and give the team perspective. As a senior though, watching the clock slide into the single digits is more like waiting to be evicted.
This fall I really struggled to get back into school and rowing. I was exhausted and exasperated with the sport after a long summer. I spent practices and classes counting down the minutes until I could go back to my apartment and lay in my bed. I wanted to be happy to be in Madison. I wanted to be a positive force on my team. I had been dreaming about being at Porter Boathouse all summer, but now that I was back, I just couldn’t feel anything.
The Head of the Charles was my light at the end of the tunnel. I told myself that if I could just make it to Boston, everything would be ok. I would see my teammates from the summer, I would get to stay an extra day to look at the IRL program at CRI I wanted to do after graduation and when I got home the team would switch to 8 hour weeks and I could finally train on my own. Arriving at Charles week felt like finishing a marathon. I had made it to the end, but it took every part of me to put one foot in front of the other and finish. I was so ready to be done: with rowing, with school, with everything.
A couple of weeks later, the evening before the docks were scheduled to come out for the winter, I went for a row in the single. There was no one else on the water but me. No wind. No sailing team. No coaches. The sunset painted the sky in oranges and pinks that reflected off of the water and engulfed me in light. I was consumed by colors. Each stroke was smooth and fluid. I watched my puddles drift away as my boat sang through the water. I felt so lucky to be a part of the moment.
I got to the end of our course, which is adjacent to the marching band’s practice field. They had been rehearsing the song “On Wisconsin” and as I turned around to head back to the boathouse they started playing “Varsity.” Something about hearing the melancholy chords combined with the perfection of the row set me off. I sat in my single and sobbed shamelessly.
How could I have taken this for granted? I had squandered my fall waiting for it to be over and now I would never have another one. This was it. I had invested three years of college in Wisconsin Rowing and this is how I honored my effort?
Sh*t. I really f***ing love Wisconsin, I remember thinking. I really f***ing love rowing, came next. I had left Wisconsin for the summer and it didn’t kill me, but I knew that it would be unbearable to stop rowing. I applied to ARION that weekend.
This was a crazy culmination to a fall that I wished would have been less miserable, but fall of 2016 is gone. It’s fruitless to wish it back, but it’s made me appreciate rowing at Wisconsin so much more. I am so privileged to have been a part of this program through every high and low. I’ve made my remaining time matter. I’ve been watching that countdown clock and savoring every day as it slips through my fingers.
As the days tick away, I’m starting to get more panicked. It’s going to be over so soon. This moment in time is never going to exist again. I am constantly reminding myself to live in the moment and savor the time that I do have left–as cliche as it sounds.
Rowing is still going to be my life after graduation. I refuse to let go of this crazy, stupid passion that’s consumed me. That being said, elite rowing isn’t going to be the same. I’m never going to be a part of a huge team like I am now. I’ll never be an undergrad again. It’s stressing me out, but I can deal with it later. Right now I’m just focusing on loving the days left on the countdown clock.