I’ve always struggled in May. An emptiness fills the void left by the endings of April. The passion disappears. All meaning is stripped out of my life. It started when I was 15. Not because of any dramatic life event but from the changing of the seasons. Not the seasons of the Earth, but the seasons of the pool. As a swimmer, my year was divided into four seasons. Pre-season. Provincial. National. Post-Season. The post-season started in May. That is when the struggle kicked in. Coming down from the high of provincial and national competitions I found myself searching for meaning. The season was over. I had achieved my goals. Now what?
May 2001 was the most challenging. Just weeks before I had signed off the year with my first national medals. Gold. Silver. Bronze. A complete set. Personal best times were smashed and I felt stronger than I ever have, and likely ever will again. I was not prepared for what came next. You spend all year fighting for those moments of success that you never stop to think about what to do after. I was a national champion. And I was empty inside. There is always another mountain to climb but the last thing anyone wants to do after climbing one is to start ascending another. This is how I felt in May of 2001. This is how I feel now in May of 2016.
Three weeks ago I submitted my LLM Thesis. After three years of hard work I was done. In the space of a week relief turned to joy turned to exhaustion turned to emptiness. Now what? The post-season is the most important season in sport. It is where you take time to relax and to refresh your mind. There is a season for hard work, there is a season for competition, and there is a season for play. I never fully learned to embrace the struggle of the post-season, but I did learn to acknowledge that it too will pass. May became a month of letting go. Letting go of the past year, letting go of past goals, letting go of past achievements. It is not a month for massive action, or climbing mountains. It is a month of reflection. A chance to reassess and refocus. To play.
Seasons change. One morning in early June my alarm would go off at 4:55am and my spring would arrive. I would drag myself out of bed and start climbing that next mountain. I have spent the better part of the past three years climbing the largest mountain I have ever come across. Battling my way through work challenges, a crumbling relationship, and the passing of the person who inspired my climb. I need time off. Time to recuperate. Time to recover from the stresses of the last climb. Maybe it is okay to feel empty for a little while. To allow myself that time to rest and to heal. Before that morning in June when I start my next ascent.