Sunday, May 29, 2011

Subtle Sacrifices for Success

With the school year winding down, not only does an influx of worry about failing children, creating 150-question biology finals, and getting all my $70 textbooks back; but I now have an additional worry that has crept in. Currently, it is sort of hard for me to call it such--seeing as I chose this for myself, but nonetheless deciding to drop down to a part-time biology and anatomy teacher next year has added a new and strange layer to this end-of-the-year stress.

I am choosing to be a part-time teacher so that I can concentrate on being a full-time athlete, and potentially start doing some motivational speeches of sort as well as work on developing a disabled women athlete team of my own. I am extremely excited to have these opportunities and the childlike mind to make decisions like these for myself. I have never been a very good adult in the sense of money nor obligation, so this choice was made even more easy by the amazing support presented by my cohorts and administrators at school.

However scary it may seem, I know that I am making the right choice. In fact, once it was finalized, rather than be bombarded by anxiety and butterflies, I surprisingly felt empowered and confident in not only my swimming abilities, but in all my abilities.

So here I sit attempting to figure out how to make up the 40% pay cut for next year. No worries though, I have a plan, or 15! Here's a list of subtle sacrifices I am willing to make beginning NOW:
1. Television that doesn't come from the internet
2. Heating my house with a thermostat
3. Frozen yogurt... well, at least frequent frozen yogurt
4. Random road trips
5. Just-because-you-are-so-stinkin'-cute gifts for my niece
6. The thought of ever getting gutters or painting my house
7. Getting fancy-esque haircuts
8. Any groceries that aren't a "Sooper Card value"
9. On that same note, Whole Foods at all
10. Automobile air-conditioning
11.Getting my bicycle and racing chair tuned this summer
12. Trash service once a week
13. Printing out potential sponsorship letters in colored ink
14.Showers at home... which (sadly) shouldn't be that much of a sacrifice
15. The infamous Grande Soy Latte

There are more, and there will be many more I'm sure... but I have never been so excited to cut out so much stability and comfort out of my life as I am today!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Some People

I can't shake it. I know that it doesn't matter what one person said or thinks about my current quest, but I just can't help but allow that negativity to ooze its way in and attempt permanent residence in my cerebrum. Stupid human nature.

When asked about my swimming, it is very typical that my eyes will achieve a brilliant sparkle, reminiscent of the pool itself. Most likely, my tone will increase a few octaves in excitement and my aura will start to sing--at least that is how it all feels. I feel so alive sharing my dreams with others. I feel so blessed to express my experiences in words and gestures and have others recognize those feelings in my heart. However, I didn't realize until now that not everyone shares my same zest for swimming, nor competition, nor following passions, nor living out dreams.

The decrescendo of my elation was direct effect to the blatant discredit of my dream. In the middle of explaining my pride for making the US Parapan Am Team and the added bonus of having some gear and costs provided by the US Paralympic Team, that negativity put a direct stop to step: "I wish someone would pay me to do my hobby!"

Whoa. I was immediately crushed. I didn't realize that the word "hobby" could have such a discredited connotation. Stopped my voice, stopped my sparkle, stopped my heart... for a second.

Quickly, I was forced back into my own reality--the one I prefer-- and I am lucky to have not been able to escape it for long. My reality tells me that my quest is important. Not only for myself, but for those that need to see that it's okay to believe in yourself. Even though I am still stuck on these words and this comment, I know that there isn't anything I could ever do to make some people understand. People that don't understand would never want the life I have set for myself anyway. People that don't understand won't necessarily fund my next swim trip or cheer at my next race, but I definitely know many more that will.

Where I am right now is due, in part, to those who have held me up to the standard of independence and strength, to grace and will, and to love and resilience. Where I am right in this very moment is a place of much joy and pride and, even though I can't make some people feel or understand, I can continue to sparkle and smile and try my very hardest for the rest of the world, myself included.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Registration Recognition

I'm not sure about the other athletes, but this is a big deal to me. For the most part, the majority of the other 24 athletes that made the Parapan Am Team are used to this. They have done this before. Some, I suspect, were even unhappy that they didn't make a better selection team. However, for me, this is beyond what I ever thought imaginable for myself.

In order to officially be a part of the team, each one of us is to register online with the USOC directly for the event. Being the neurotic and carefully planned out soul that I am, I had to get it done quick. Am I worried that they are going to reject my team nomination? Perhaps. Am I concerned that it is more involved than it appears and it will actually take me going to get a new passport or searching for a notary or participating in a scavenger hunt of sorts for specific signatures? Maybe. The safest bet is that I am just neurotic and like things done as soon as I can muster the energy to do them. Otherwise, who knows what could happen, right?!

So as it was, I spent no less than five hours trying to finagle the exact dimensions of a required head shot photo. No smile. White background. 50-512 kB. 35mm x 45mm.... Students couldn't help me, Kinko's couldn't help me; so I spent the better half of my days after school last week cursing at my computer screen. Once that was finally set, I sat down at a cafe to complete the rest.

Much to my chagrin, I had forgotten to figure out my physical measurements in the privacy of my own home. So, with measuring tape in hand, I proceeded to measure hips and waist and inseam and sleeve length and chest right there, sitting at the local Starbucks. Measurements in tow, I was now completely and finally ready.

The whole registration process was supposed to take about half an hour, so said the directions. It took me well over two, no surprise. I wanted to be precise. I wanted to make sure that I made no errors-- especially since I am extremely prone to such specifically when one is NOT supposed to make errors (ie. flight bookings). I wanted to make sure that my answers were the best possible reflection of who I am as a swimmer and as an individual.

Questions ranged from high school accolades to superstitions. I wrote out family contacts and history. I typed up answers about what makes me unique. I produced lists of music that I listen to and facts that no one knows about me.

The most remarkable part about this entire registration process, was surprisingly not the fact that it was so thorough nor random; but rather the fact that I kept encouraging and reminding myself that this is the biggest thing that I have ever known for me thus far.

It is big, not in the sense of competition or even sport, but for the sense that 10 months ago I made a promise to myself to try my best and enjoy the ride. There I sat, at a little cafe table covered in paperwork, my laptop, a giant latte drink, inconspicuous measuring tape, and a smile registering for a event that displays with undoubted clarity, the amount of work and care and love that I have put into this part of my life for the past 10 months.

I still remember that day that I made that promise to myself. I was making secret trips to swim while on doctor prescribed bed rest. Swimming was the only thing that could fill my heart at that point and, for the first time ever, my brain recognized it too...