Up until the beginning of my junior year at Princeton University my life had been consumed by athletics. My life was completely and without question devoted to the sport I love: water polo. Even through my first two years at Princeton, I spent countless hours in the pool. Not only am I happy with the way I spent my time as an athlete but I also learned invaluable lessons.
It was not until my long term health was threatened that I considered not playing anymore. However, once I realized the possible negative effects for me continuing to play water polo I came to terms with the fact that this was going to have to be the end of this road for me.
Water polo defined me as a person and being an athlete was part of who I was. Even though the label as an 'athlete' is not part of me anymore, I will always be an athlete. Everything in life that I face I approach with the skills learned through being an athlete. At Princeton, often students and sometimes even professors look at athletes as intellectually inferior because, as they see it, we got in solely based off athletic ability. Whether this intellectual inferiority is rooted in truth does not matter because it is a widely held belief amongst my peers that I picked up on early as a freshman. The work ethic, time management skills and determination I garnered as an athlete are things I carry through my whole life. My peers did not recognize many of the positive skills that came along with being an athlete and instead only saw the accused shortcomings.
This transition from full-time athlete to N.A.R.P (non-athletic regular person) has forced me to learn a lot about myself, free from definition, as well as the way others perceive non-athletes on campus. For me, as a collegiate athlete I felt that no one expected me to excel in other areas outside of my sport. What I have realized now is that when people perceive you solely as an athlete, you tend not to change the perceptions placed upon you.
In many cases my commitment to athletics did deter my ability to excel in these areas. However being able to break the perceptions placed upon athletes is a difficult thing to do.
People perceiving me as 'a dumb athlete at an Ivy League who only got in because of her sport' has made me want to expect a lot of myself in other areas as well. Being an athlete never constricted my ability to do other things successfully -- but when people do not perceive you as one whom is capable of success outside of the athletic realm, it is easy to start believing the misconception as fact.