I have never been, nor ever will be, Olympic athlete material. I suppose you could say that I live vicariously through world-renowned competitors, as I’m guessing many other folks do. I used to spend a significant amount of effort avoiding anything that resembled running or exercising, unless it had something to do with skating. I never had much exposure to water sports as a youth, so I have what you might consider a
healthy fear paranoia when it comes to water I can’t see through and might contain critters. That is the main reason I made sure my daughter was exposed to water at a very early age. At age 5, she became a little fish, and soon after helped me learn an appreciation for swimming competitions (despite the parent-sitting-beside-the-pool-in-extreme-temps-in-Arizona thing). The result has been a glued-to-the-tube-for-five-consecutive-summer-Olympic-games-watching-swimming thing, aka. Michael Phelps fan.
As I was watching the first of swimming trials over the weekend, I was struck by two very different, very meaningful moments. The first was this commercial for Liberty Mutual Insurance, where an athlete replies to the question about what it feels like to receive an Olympic medal. She explains that the medals earned are all around us. It made me stop and think about all the things I’ve accomplished or received because of my persistence. A home I can call my own (kinda), a vehicle to drive, a solid education that has resulted in a purposeful career, supportive friends and coworkers that encourage me along the way – all those deserve at least bronze or silver. And then there is my family, immediate and extended, including some forever friends who feel more like family. I definitely got the gold when they were placed in my life. And then there is my beautiful daughter – the hardest-fought battle was for her existence and continued as I endeavored to raise a responsible adult. She is the most precious gold medal. Did I make mistakes along the way? ABSOLUTELY. I had plenty of false starts, fell off the beam, or landed badly. Were there times I wanted to give up? ABSOLUTELY. But God put some silver and gold-medal friends to lift me up and carry me when my strength failed.
The second meaningful moment had to do with the Team America win in the Men’s 4×100 Freestyle relay. The win alone was huge and showed so much heart. But the best part was watching those four men on the podium receiving their gold medals while our National Anthem played. Seeing a young man sing along, get emotional, and not be able to hold back his tears was inspiring. In a world where so many are encouraged to suppress their emotions because shedding a tear will make them look weak, his humanness and vulnerability showed through. I got a little emotional watching the display, and thought, “That young man is proud of the work he did to get to that place, passionate about what he does, and proud of representing his country for all the world to see.” You can watch it here.
So …don’t spend time comparing your achievements to others’. Count up your own medals and value the things and friends and family you have in your life. Be passionate about what you do, cover your spot on the team, and enjoy the rewards with emotion that shows the effort was worth it. Go for the Gold. And if you go home with a silver or bronze, be confident that you did your best.