For those of you who have not been following my work and this blog, for the past several months I have been creating a book about my life as a swimmer and how it has shaped me as person. It was not always about this. For a long while, I did not know exactly what it was going to be about. I began with something I had a passion for and hoped to learn something about myself and my work from exploring that topic.
I could never have imagined where it would lead. I wrapped up the illustration phase of my book about a week ago. The images were all complete and I really needed to sit down, put pen to paper and physically write out all the thoughts that had been flowing through my mind while creating these works of art. I thought I had a pretty good sense of what I was going to write. I wanted to take the viewer on a journey of memories mixed with current thoughts tracing my life long love of swimming.
And then yesterday happened. Yesterday I lost someone I cared about a lot. Someone who, aside from my parents, probaby shaped me more than anyone else in my life. Yesterday I lost my high school swim coach, Greg House, known to the hundreds (thousands?) that loved and admired him, as "Coach".
I met Coach when most people who know and love him did. When I was a 14-year-old freshman in high school. Still a child, really. He was there through my most formative years. I am very fortunate that he was. As a coach of a successful swim team (20 state championships in the books), our relationship wasn't always easy, but it was always strong. I was only a kid, and I had never been pushed, mentally OR phsyically, the way he pushed us. Some people can go their whole lives without truly knowing the rewards hard work can reap. Because of Coach, I experienced this very early on.
My life had taken some pretty crazy turns in the past year. I left a very comfortable job that made me miserable. I also left my friends and family, all in the crazy name of becoming an artist–an illustrator. It's been a fun year, but also a challenging one. One thing I can say through it all, is I've come to realize how lucky I am. To even know that the impossible is actually possible is a gift that Coach gave me. And funny enough, it was actually Coach who gave me my very first illustration assignment! A drawing of his tattoo–a yin yang, one side fire, the other side water. It was Coach and it was perfect. At the time, I was honored that he thought of me as such a skilled artist to commission such a thing. It is only now that I am actually humbled to know that the work of my hand was with him for the rest of his life on Earth.
A day I never thought would happen has now come and passed. I cry because I never got to say goodbye. I think about the successes I had because of him: Looking up at that clock at state and seeing I had smashed my personal best time and bounded over the competition. Becoming a champion. Crying because it hurt. Sobbing because it happened. I think about the trials life will surely hand me once again and I know Coach will be there with me through those as well. And my tears dry up, because I now know that I never had to say goodbye, for he will never really be gone.
The following images are dedicated to the loving memory of our "Coach", Greg House.