Mayim "May" Grace Holloway was born in Salem, MA to Elliott and Caroline, the only child of an investment banker and a flight attendant. Her parents met when her father was flying overseas for business, and her mother happened to be the one serving him on a typical long haul flight. They connected, and the rest was history. A year or so later, Caroline became pregnant with Mayim, and Elliott proposed. Her mother continued to work well after she was born, but when Mayim was five years old, Caroline quit flying for good and opted to be a stay at home mom. Thanks to her father's job, the three of them lived comfortably, and Mayim had a happy childhood, wanting for nothing. Growing up, she was able to attend good schools, and her family was able to have such luxuries like spending summers on Cape Cod, and vacations in the Caribbean. Mayim's teenage years were filled with friends and school activities. She swam competitively, spending her high school days waking up early every morning to practice. Her mother had always called her a water baby, and maybe that was true. It was almost as if she had always belonged in the water. It was where she felt most at home, most in her element.
And she was talented. College scouts started watching her early on, and it didn't take long before her parents began to realize that she could go pro. That it was a gift she could base a career on. When Mayim was finally accepted to Harvard, the path was clear. She was registered to compete at the NCAA level, and traveled all over the world to participate in various events, gradually rising in the ranks until she began to be eyed for Olympic competition. It was the most surreal day of her life when she made the US Olympic swimming and diving team in 2008, competing in the women’s 10 meter platform event. It was the icing on the cake during a time where she was experiencing everything the world had to offer at a young age, traveling to far off locales to compete with her team and ending up getting blitzed in pubs, young collegiate girls finding themselves tangled up in new, exotic places with older, seductive foreign boys.
Then everything changed. Her mother was diagnosed with an advanced and aggressive stage of breast cancer, within days of Mayim finding out that she would compete in Beijing. Suddenly, her time outside of practice was spent helping her father take care of her mother as she slowly withered away. Mayim didn't know what to do. Was she even allowed to celebrate? Her mother passed within days of her receiving a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Harvard, and Mayim's world was turned upside down. The last thing she wanted to do at that point was go to Beijing. But it had been her mother's dying wish that she go to the Olympic games, and so Mayim did the only thing she could. She threw her grief into her competition training, and got on that plane.
Standing atop the high dive that summer evening, with the world watching, Mayim could have sworn other forces were at work. It was like she went out of her body, watching herself as she lifted herself into a handstand on the very edge of that platform. She didn't realize what had happened until after she dove into the water and surfaced, and saw her coach freaking out. Mayim would never forget having that silver medal hung around her neck. It was everything she had worked toward, but all Mayim could feel was just... numbness. It was difficult to imagine celebrating anything without her mother.
When she returned to Boston, Mayim began her transition from competition into coaching, fulfilling the occasional commitment on behalf of her athletic career, such as interviews and events. She was even a commentator during the 2012 Summer Games in London. At home, she pursued a master's degree in sociology at Boston University, and taught at a local swim school in the area. Mayim eventually took on coaching the school’s junior girls team, often spending her weekends traveling around New England to swim meets with her gaggle of gossiping, melodramatic teenage students. When she completed her graduate degree at Boston University in 2011, Harvard brought Mayim on staff as an assistant coach for their women’s swimming and diving team, the very same one she had competed on during her undergrad years. Her days were busy, but Mayim was doing what she loved.
And then her father began to get sick. He began to have trouble with memory loss, and it became difficult to walk. His movements were jerky and random, and he often became agitated and irritable. Huntington's disease, the doctors said. Elliott eventually developed dementia as a result. Putting her father into a care facility in Brookline, close to her, was one of the worst days of her life, but Mayim couldn’t take care of him at home anymore. It was beyond her capabilities, a fact that haunted Mayim daily. She took control of her father's assets, and reluctantly sold the family homestead in Salem. Mayim used the money to buy a small house in the East Cambridge area of Boston, and visited her father nearly every day, but it did nothing to assuage her feelings of guilt. Her heart broke every single time. Mayim spent the rest of her days working, coaching and arguing on the phone with her aunts about her father's care; occasionally making time for hanging out with friends or the rare date that caught her eye. It was a mundane existence at times, but it was her life. If change was on the horizon, she wasn't looking for it. She was too busy living it, seeking what little adventure was left to squeeze into such routine days.
But when Mayim lay her head down at night, she wondered. She couldn't shake the feeling that something was waiting for her. Something extraordinary. She just didn't know what.