Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Labels Can Be Removed

Tonight, I watched Michael Phelps carry in the US flag representing the American team for the 2016 Olympics. He is seen as a role model, something to strive for, a representative of the great country that is the United States. Seven years ago, in 2009, Michael Phelps was in a much different place. He was known for his recreational and illegal use of marijuana.

During the summer of 2009, I was working my first job as a swim instructor for my hometown’s public pool/recreational center. At one point during the summer, I got a break from the two-year-old beginners and the baby pool that surely contained urine and got to work with a group of fourth grade boys. This was a much different experience. One day, we worked on kicking off the wall to begin the swimming formation. I told them we were going to be “like Michael Phelps.” One of the boys immediately responded “he’s a pothead.” I quickly changed my analogy and tried to derail the snickering boys’ attention.

Michael Phelps made a significant comeback in the 2012 Olympics in London, becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time.

We all make mistakes. As long as we own up to them and bear any possible consequences, they do not have to define us. The same with a diagnosis. It’s something that happens to you and as long as you do not let it define you, everyone else will eventually move on and will similarly not define you by that abnormality. It doesn’t matter how many people know. It’s not about keeping a secret. Sometimes that makes it worse. If Michael Phelps can move from “Pothead” to “Olympian,” I and my peers can certainly move from “Depressed” to “Content.”

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