The Rollercoaster Ride Called My Life

It’s been an interesting few days. An interesting few weeks, really.

First and foremost, guess where I am OFFICIALLY studying abroad during the spring semester!

Yeahhhh buddy! :) It really isn’t breaking news anymore, but better late than never, right? I’ve submitted my housing application and course preferences and everything. I cannot wait to go!

Like I’ve mentioned in a previous entry, I’m trying to get an internship or volunteer for the Olympics while I’m there. The contact I made with LOCOG was kind of AWOL for a while, so I emailed him again and he asked if there’s a number he can reach me at. Eek! An unknown number called me this weekend, but I was in Orlando (to be explained in a minute) and couldn’t talk, so they left a voicemail. I’m kind of wondering if it’s him. I should probably check that (but I’m really nervous so I’m putting it off until tomorrow, when I can feasibly call him back. Heh.)

Has anyone ever tried getting a visa before, though? Because, oh my god, I’m terrified. Literally terrified. I need a gazillion documents, none of which are specifically listed, so all I have is this extremely fuzzy, vague idea of what’s going on. I have an appointment at the British consulate in Miami so they can fingerprint me on Wednesday, and I need to get everything in within two weeks after that. My study abroad advisor told me to call and ask the British Council in Washington, DC… but I went to their website and it said they don’t accept questions by phone. So I emailed them, and haven’t heard back. Can you tell I’m freaking out a little bit (read: a lot)? I think I’ll just ask what I need when I’m actually at the consulate.

SO. OVERWHELMED. Good lord. But if things actually work out the way I’m praying they do, it’ll ALL be worth it. Every single penny of the $433 application fee and every bit of stress. Seriously. So worth it. I just have to keep wearing my London Does It Better shirt to remind myself!

*Sexy transition* (← Makes sense if you watch the What the Buck? Show on YouTube.)

This weekend, there was the National College Media Convention in Orlando. Most of the editorial staff of The Hurricane went, and it was a really great experience. All of the sessions I went to were awesome; I really feel like I learned a lot. And it was great bonding with the staff!

But at the same time, it was a really stressful weekend. It was all newspaper, all the time. I’ve known for a while that I definitely don’t want to work for a newspaper after I graduate, and all the talk about how much we need to improve the paper was a tad overwhelming, especially since I’m just not good at opinion.

Yeah, it’s true. It’s just not for me. I mean, it’s a fairly easy enough section to handle, and I’m really on top of my rundowns and getting content up in time (for the most part). But writing editorials? LOL. Apparently I’ve been doing a worse job than I even thought, and nobody felt the need to tell me, but instead just complain about my writing when I’m not in the newsroom. I’ve been very clear with everyone that I have no idea what I’m doing and to PLEASE give me feedback so I can learn, but I’ve only been called to sit in on the editing process twice. Now there are only eight issues left, and of course I’m going to keep trying and attempt to put some stuff I learned this weekend to use, but I’m really unhappy with the way this was handled. I’ve been trying really hard, and I feel like it's all for naught. (Side note: Thankfully I'm getting tons of positive feedback from the folks at Xanga and Lovelyish, otherwise I'd be having a serious personal crisis.)

So THAT was (is) a bummer. I’ve felt for a while that I’m not entirely comfortable writing opinion, but this was the final nail in the coffin. I don’t think I’m going to miss it much when I’m abroad next semester. I’ll miss the people like crazy, but the actual work? No. Not even a little bit. I’ll have to decide whether or not I want to rejoin the staff when I come back, because at this point, I don’t even know.

Luckily, though, because I know opinion isn’t my thing, I went to a bunch of sessions for my own personal needs. For instance, a great session called “Get That Internship,” and another one called “Making Money Blogging.” A lot of it was common sense but not really plausible for me (ex: he told us we need some sort of inside connection and access to information nobody else has, like if you personally know a celebrity). But hearing all this talk about doing things only because you’re passionate about them got me SO excited about this here blog!

Even if I somehow don’t get to be directly involved in the Olympics in London, I’m still going to BE in London. I’ll be able to visit the facilities and have my thumb on the pulse of what’s actually going on as the clock ticks closer to the Opening Ceremonies. I will DEFINITELY be using this as a reporting tool. I can’t wait to become an unofficial member of the press and get out there! Expect tons of photo essays!

I think I’m going to try to do some other stuff on here even before that. I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like to have some more “exclusive” content somehow, and the session I went to only enforced that thought. But how to do that? After all, I’ve only ever really spoken to one Olympian, and he didn’t answer the last email I sent him.


Remember Awaken the Olympian Within? I finished it last week or so, and LOOK WHAT’S IN THE BACK!

I CAN’T EVEN. I love the Olympics so much, have I mentioned that? Like, IS THIS REAL? YOU MEAN I CAN WRITE TO MIKE ERUZIONE? AND NADIA COMANECI? AND DAN JANSEN? AND AL JOYNER? AND JEFF BLATNICK? And I could CALL THEM?! Seriously, shut up. This can’t be real.

It is, though. The book was published in 1999 so who knows how correct any of this is anymore, but still!

Anyway, I’ll stop fangirling for a moment and mention two stories I’ve dog-eared since the last time I wrote about this book.

The first is by Bonny Warner, a luger from the ‘80s and early ’90s. She wrote about how a professional explorer came to her high school and, in his speech, told everyone to write down what their dreams and goals for their lifetime were. Here’s her list:

-To go to a top college.
-To become an Olympian.
-To work for ABC-TV.
-To obtain a private pilot’s license.
-To built a log cabin.

And guess what? She went to Stanford. She was on three Olympic teams. She became the expert luge analyst for ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” She earned her pilot’s license and, at the time of publication, was the captain of a Boeing 727 for a major airline. Her story ended with, “I call it my dream job. However, I have one more dream to go…Remember the log cabin? I’m setting up the plan now.”

This gave me the biggest goosebumps. I can’t even put into words how much this affected me, and still does. In my elementary school’s fifth grade yearbook, we were told to write what we wanted to be when we grew up. What did I want to be? An author and an Olympic athlete.

I’d completely forgotten about those dreams until fairly recently, after I’d already altered and sort of combined them. I was chasing my lifelong goals before I’d even realized they were life-long. Bonny gives me so much hope that this might actually happen for me.

I want to write to her and ask if she ever built that log cabin.

The other story I marked was by Henry Marsh, a steeplechase runner from the ‘70s and ‘80s. He himself says that his story “fits more into the category of what the world would call a tragedy – the kind you turn into a country song.”

He goes on to say, “I choose to think that my Olympic experiences helped shape my life, much for the better. Sometimes, in fact, I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t had to endure a good dose of what the poets call ‘character-building experiences.’ If I had won my gold medal, or gold medals, would the lessons that followed have been as satisfying or as valuable?”

This is when I started getting interested in a significant way. This is such a huge part of my philosophy because of Endurance. It’s like he reached into my skull, yanked out my beliefs, and splattered them on paper. I didn’t win by a long shot, but I think my lack of success there made me appreciate what I learned so much more than I think the more successful contestants could. I learned so much about myself through failure and betrayal than I ever could have through victory.

He continued, “I know this: By not finishing first and by not realizing the fulfillment of all my dreams – when everyone in the world, myself included, fully expected that I would – I was able to gain a much greater appreciation for, and understanding of, the Olympic Creed:

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well. –Pierre de Coubterin”

I read this while sitting on a plane (I really should’ve learned my lesson with the Jeff Blatnick story, shouldn’t I?) and my jaw literally dropped. I never thought about it like this before. I’ve been living my life by the Olympic Creed and didn’t even realize it.

It’s things like this that make a dream that seems harder to achieve every day feel like it’s within my grasp. I love being reaffirmed that I’m not crazy for wanting this so badly. I live by this creed; no wonder I love it so much!

…Really, can I just blog about the Olympics for the rest of my life and be done with it?

How I Know I Want To Do What I Want To Do

Okay, so I have some important life things to report, but I’ve decided to put those off until a later date and instead talk about something else.

I’ve had this book called “Awaken the Olympian Within” for the longest time, and never got around to reading it. Well, at the end of this summer, I was on a reading kick and decided to bring it to Miami with me. I have basically zero free time, but this book is a bunch of individual anecdotes from past Olympians – I can (and have) put it down for over a month at a time and not forget any plot points.

Yesterday, I left for a trip with my travel writing class. We’re writing stories about Grand Teton National Park, and to get here we flew from Miami to Dallas, and from Dallas to Salt Lake City. I brought “Awaken the Olympian Within” with me to read on my flights when electronics had to be turned off. So I read several chapters when we took off out of Dallas, and a few more as we were landing in Salt Late City. The last one I read was by a guy named Jeff Blatnick.

Blatnick was a Greco-Roman wrestler, and won gold in the 1984 Olympics after being diagnosed with Hogdkin’s Disease (cancer) two years previously. He talked about how he was into sports as a kid but always sat on the bench, until his brother David introduced him to the high school wrestling coach. He wrote:

“Quickly growing in speed and strength, I flourished on the mat. Soon I was defeating people who had beaten me months earlier. I was improving and motivated. My brother David and his buddies started showing up at the gym whenever I had an important match and, if I did well, I heard them pounding their feet in unison on the bleachers, the sound echoing off the walls. Even after he joined the Air Force, David would come home on occasion and stomp on the bleachers with his pals.

“In 1977, David was a passenger on a motorcycle that didn’t negotiate a sharp turn and he was thrown. He died shortly thereafter. My brother had brought me to my sport, but he was taken away before he could see my success.”

Jeff got diagnosed with cancer in 1982 (two years after he should’ve competed in the 1980 Games had there not been a boycott), and went into remission six months later. Of course, I’m not doing the story justice by summarizing it, but in a nutshell, he rehabbed, got back into top form, and made it to the Olympics. Before the gold medal match, he wrote:

“In an age-old ritual, my dad said, ‘Get mad, son!’ and I responded as I always had, ‘If you get mad, you get stupid.’ He patted my shoulder and I thought my family had given me all the encouragement possible until, as I walked toward the mat, mom whispered in my ear, ‘Do it for Dave.’”

So four years later than he should’ve, Blatnick became the second American in history to win an Olympic medal in Greco-Roman wrestling, and it was gold. And he’d beaten cancer. All really inspirational stuff, but his story ended with this:

“Perhaps it was just my imagination, but as I stepped up to receive my gold medal, amid the clapping and cheering of the partisan American crowd, I thought I heard the sound of feet pounding in unison on the bleachers, echoing off the walls.”

I read this and broke down.

Okay, I wasn’t wailing or sobbing or anything, but I cried. And not just teared up, either – I legitimately had to wipe my eyes so tears weren’t rolling down my face. I don’t even understand why! I mean, I’ve read and seen and heard about all sorts of inspirational and heartbreaking stories like this. Hello, Dan Jansen wrote an earlier chapter of the book. It doesn’t get much more heartbreaking, yet I was dry-eyed. But for Jeff Blatnick and his brother, I couldn’t keep it together.

And then we landed, and the flight attendant said, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Salt Lake City.”

I wasn’t expecting that to be as big a deal as it was, either, but suddenly I was THERE. This is where Sarah Hughes won her gold medal, where Apolo competed when I first discovered him, where Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were awarded a gold medal after that whole judging scandal. This is where so much of my passion for the Olympics started. And then I was crying about Jeff Blatnick and his brother and being in Salt Lake City and wondering why the hell I had no control over my tear ducts. Luckily I had an empty seat next to me and got myself together fairly quickly.

…Is this what a religious experience feels like?

Just kidding.

But seriously.