Eight Reasons Why I Want To Be Julie Chu When I Grow Up

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with my boss, who's about as big an Olympics fan as I am, about some of our awesome Team USA athletes who were in D.C. for the Best of U.S. awards weekend extravaganza. When the topic of Julie Chu (hockey player extraordinaire) came up, the exact words that came out of my mouth (uh, keyboard) were, "Dude, I want to be Julie Chu when I grow up." (Yeah, I called my boss "dude." Don't worry about it.) And the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that that statement couldn't be more correct.

Basically, Julie is rapidly climbing my list of girl crushes, 'cause she's the total bomb dot com. So I give to you...

Julie Chu

1. A little over a week ago, I had the whole of the USOC's archived Olympic footage at my fingertips. (And yes, it was as glorious as it sounds. I'll give you one guess as to which year I perused first.) I happened across some of Julie's highlights from Vancouver 2010, and I kid you not, I was watching them with my mouth hanging open. It was beautiful hockey. She's kind of epic. Just look at these goals! (And I couldn't even find my favorite example on YouTube. The struggle of being privy to exclusive footage.)

Julie Chu Vancouver 2010
Julie Chu Vancouver 2010

2. Girlfriend has four Olympic medals (three silvers and a bronze) and has been on four Olympic teams. I mean, I'm not the best at math, but I'm pretty sure that's like an A+ success rate. She's apparently tied for the second most decorated American female winter Olympian ever, right behind Bonnie Blair (who has six medals). Buuuutt, Bonnie Blair was a speed skater and had more events and therefore more chances to medal, whereas in hockey, you've got one medal opportunity in each Olympics. Bonnie also benefitted from the 1992/1994 quad switch, which gave her three Games in six years (1988, 1992, 1994). So the fact that Julie is up there with her is kiiiiind of a big deal.

3. When Julie was on her first Olympic team, I was in fifth grade. I watched her compete in Sochi while almost a year removed from graduating college. W H A T. I can only dream of being that good at something for that long!

4. Julie saw fairly limited ice time in Sochi, which is a pretty significant change from previous years in her career. But it was well publicized that she fully embraced her new role as a team veteran, and she was on the ice for penalty kills (aka SUPER IMPORTANT TIME). And she was the one rallying her teammates after they lost gold. While receiving the silver medal in Vancouver, Julie was one of the players wiping tears away during the ceremony. But immediately after the team lost the gold medal game in Sochi, Julie was the person everyone gathered around for a keep-your-head-up talk. If life was a novel, this would be called fantastic character development.

5. She was Team USA's flag bearer during the Sochi closing ceremony. Flag bearers are voted on by their fellow athletes and are chosen based on their story and the amount of respect others have for them. For instance, past flag bearers include Dan Jansen, Eric Heiden, Bonnie Blair, Gary Hall... kind of a big deal.

And I TOTALLY CALLED IT, the second I saw her at the center of that post-game huddle. No biggie. I'll make sure not to break my arm patting myself on the back.

6. She went to Harvard. So, that's pretty self-explanatory. (But in case that doesn't speak for itself, listen to her do an interview. Girl has the eloquence to prove it.)

7. BUT, she's not relying on her hockey nor her Harvard to get her through the rest of her life. She was one of the athletes that attended the recent Olympic & Paralympic Athlete Summit, which provided "professional development tools" and "covered topics: careers, financial management, personal development and education." And she spoke on a couple of panels there too.

8. This:

Julie Chu and President Obama at the White House

Is this when you know you've made it in life? Casually standing on stage with the President as he gives a speech?

In conclusion, if you're not living a Julie Chu appreciation life, you're doing it wrong. :)

Venus Trapped in Mars

Images: 1 - 2 - 3 - GIFs made by me, video footage here
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The Lake Placid Recap (Nine Years Later)

If you lovely folks have taken a peek at my Olympic list, you may have noticed that I've blogged about all my adventures except for one: my visit to Lake Placid. The reason for that is simple: I went to Lake Placid in 2005 (holy hell, that was so long ago), which was years before I started blogging. Well, no, that's a lie... I had my trusty Xanga in 2005. Buuuuut let's not talk about those Xanga days. Yikes.

I ended up at Lake Placid purely by chance and good fortune. My grandparents used to take my cousin Molly and I on a trip every summer. They were always small road trips except 2004, when we went to London in honor of our Bat Mitzvahs. So many years of excitement and planning had gone into the London trip that 2005 was a massive afterthought. Time was ticking away (as in, I'm pretty sure it was spring or summer already) and we still didn't even have a destination in mind. I was trying to brainstorm with my mom one day, and she had the stroke of genius to say, "You guys should go to Lake Placid."

Well, yes. Yes, we should.

Now, nobody else in that travel group cares about the Olympics even remotely close to the amount I do. I don't really remember why they all agreed to take an hours-long car ride to a teensy little city that basically exists solely on its Olympic legacy. But did I care? Nooooope. All I knew was that I was getting to visit my first Olympic city! Woop woop! And I have a distinct memory of Molly skipping down the street and singing the song in those old Vonage commercials, so I don't think I was the only one who enjoyed myself. ;)

(A note before we begin: this is 2005 photography. Judge accordingly. And not only that, these photos are at my house in New York, while I'm in Colorado. So my mom took photos of everything and sent them to me. Therefore, the images you see below are iPhone photos of photos from 2005. Lol, awwww yeahhhh. To say the quality may be suspect is a massive understatement. But hey, vintage is a thing, right? And this way it looks like I was actually there in 1980! :P

Also, I no longer remember who took any of these photos. Some may've been me, or my grandpa, or Molly... no idea. However, the ones that are slightly less wide than the others were definitely taken by me. My hard drive has crashed, like, three times since 2005, so I only have a handful remaining... that I've re-saved from Facebook. Sigh.

Also also, after every trip, my grandpa put together a book about it, which is almost entirely how I'm recreating the narrative of this trip. Details get a little fuzzy after nine years, y'know what I mean?)

We rolled into town in the afternoon and immediately headed to the convention hall to get tickets to an ice show the next day.

Lake Placid Olympic Drive
Lake Placid Convention Hall
Lake Placid Convention Hall
Lake Placid flags
(This last photo is mine, even though it's not small. Somehow a big file magically survived until now!)

Since we got there relatively late, we didn't have enough time for a full activity, so we went to the Winter Olympics museum. (If I were taking this trip nowadays, I'd give myself AT LEAST half a day to meander through here. I don't remember how big it is, but I don't care. We know how I am about the Winter Olympics. And Lake Placid. Let's be real, I'd probably need a full day. Or two.)

Lake Placid Winter Olympics Museum
 I spy Eddie the Eagle in that picture!!

Lake Placid Winter Olympics Museum
I could've sworn there was a picture of me in the bobsled. Alas.

Lake Placid Winter Olympics Museum

The only thing I really remember about this museum is that at one point, there's a little TV playing the Miracle on Ice game. I really wanted to stand there and watch the last few minutes, but the museum's closing time was rapidly approaching so we had to move on. Siiiiigh. Talk about missed opportunities. And again, why I would need a zillion hours in this place.

Then there was this virtual reality simulator thing. Because goggles and a fan clearly make me feel like I'm a real ski jumper!

Lake Placid Winter Olympics Museum

And then we popped into the ice arena.

Lake Placid Herb Brooks Hockey Arena


This is literally the only mention of the ice arena in this book. And I recognize those red seats, so I know it's the arena built for the 1980 Olympics. And I'm pretty sure some stuff happened there that's kind of a big deal and I do not understand my total lack of reaction to being there. I mean, Miracle came out in 2004 and I saw it in theaters, so I definitely knew about it. And I wanted to watch the end of the game while we were in the museum, so I definitely cared about it. And that arena had been re-named in honor of Herb Brooks literally months before I set foot in it, yet it was so inconsequential to me that I didn't even committ it to memory?!?

This is me reaching back into the past and shaking my 14-year-old self violently. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, SELF?! GRRAAHHH.

We did go to that ice show the next night, though I'm not bothering to include photos from it because, hello, 2005 disposable camera photography in a dark arena. Not even worth the effort. We did, however, see a handful of former Olympians, including the Protopopovs. They're in the figure skating hall of fame and they're kind of a really big deal.

Before the show, though, we took a gondola lift to the top of Whiteface Mountain. The view was GREAT. Or something.

Whiteface Mountain
The sign down there apparently said, "MIRACLE MOMENT Photo Zone ... Be Prepared To Smile." I can totally get behind a place that throws in Miracle references in completely unrelated scenarios, just for the heck of it. You go, Whiteface Mountain.

Whiteface Mountain
In all our middle school glory. Holy awkward.

Then we hit up the ski jumping complex!

Lake Placid Ski Jumping Complex
Lake Placid Ski Jumping Complex
Lake Placid Ski Jumping Complex
Lake Placid Ski Jumping Complex
Lake Placid Ski Jumping Complex
Lake Placid Ski Jumping Complex
Lake Placid Ski Jumping Complex
Lake Placid Ski Jumping Complex
On the Lake Placid medal podium
Fun story: I got the top of the podium because I was the shortest. Another fun story: in 1980, the only Americans to stand on the top of the podium were Eric Heiden and the Miracle hockey team. I'll take what I can get. :P

So the next day we did some hiking and nature-y stuff that was very beautiful but not at all related to the Olympics so I didn't make my mom take pictures of it and send it to me. Daughter of the year, right here. But on our last day in town, we went BOBSLEDDING!

Bobsledding in Lake Placid
Bobsledding in Lake Placid
It was kind of scary but really fun. And those G-forces are no joke. Totally couldn't hold my head up.

And here's a picture of Mirror Lake, because pretty.

Mirror Lake

And here's this, because HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Lake Placid shenanigans

Aaaand that is the entirety of my Lake Placid experience. It was really fun and a great starting point for my Olympic city visits, but I really, really need to make a return trip. Not only did I whiff on the hockey arena, but hello, the speedskating oval?! The site of Eric Heiden's flawlessness?! That wasn't even on my radar back then! (Trying really hard to refrain from getting too violent on my 14-year-old self again.) I also kind of want to swing past the high school in town, 'cause it was the press center. And the then-Olympic village, which has since been converted into a jail. And there was also this one hill that Herb used to get the hockey team into shape...

Okay, so I'd probably be a pretty baller Lake Placid tour guide. But anyway, I went to Lake Placid before I knew how to do Olympic city visits. So a part two to this saga is a must!

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April 14th is a... shall we say, interesting day in the history of Darci.

I was on a reality TV show called Endurance when I was 15. If you didn't already know that, I'll give you a moment to let that sink in and process your shock. Yes, this awkward, bespectacled girl with a decidedly behind-the-camera personality was a contestant on what was essentially a kid version of Survivor. I have an IMDb page and everything. (And before you ask... yes, it's on YouTube.)

Can you spot me? :)

This show was a massive obsession of mine for a few years. And calling it a "massive obsession" is probably putting it lightly, actually. So when I started seeing commercials on TV calling for audition tapes for season four, I roped my brother into being my cameraman and sent in a tape.

On April 14th, 2005, I was watching TV in the basement of my house when I heard the phone ring. It was an unknown number calling, so nobody picked up, as per usual, and I thought nothing of it. But a few minutes later, my mom came downstairs, holding the cordless phone and looking very strange.

"Dar, you need to listen to this. Right now."

My first thoughts were, holy crap, who died? Am I in trouble? What did I do?

My mom hit the playback button so I could listen to the message this caller just left, and what do I hear?

"Hi Darci, this is Mark from 3Ball Productions..."

3Ball Productions was the production company behind Endurance. Turns out they liked my audition tape and wanted me to send in another one. So I went from utter terror to a wide-eyed, squealing, flailing mess in 15 seconds flat.

I ended up not getting on that season, but I still had one year of age eligibility left, so when auditions for season five rolled around I went for it again. No regrets, right?

On April 14th, 2006, a call went to voicemail and the answering machine picked up as I was walking out of my room. So I heard it this time.

"Hi Darci, this is Mark from 3Ball Productions. I hope you remember me, 'cause we sure remember you from last year!"

Yes, hello, mental breakdown in the hallway.

I did make it onto season five, and believe me when I tell you that that call on April 14th was just the beginning of a long, weird, incredibly difficult but equally as amazing journey. One that I'm sure I'll get around to writing about eventually. And for a long time, I didn't really think about the significance of that first step, getting that call that got the ball rolling.

My parents thought I was a little bit nuts to want to be on a reality show. But they let me chase that bizarro dream I had because, lol, what the heck are the odds of it actually happening? (We found out later that the odds were 20 out of 10,000.) So, uh, the joke ended up being on them, I guess! That's what you get for underestimating me: put up in a hotel in Clovis, California with the parents/guardians of 19 other teenagers and left to watch your children do battle in the forest.

I mean, don't you wish you had promotional photos of your 15-year-old self and got to live in a treehouse on your summer vacation? (I'm trying so hard not to cringe at the photo. But the treehouse is still the coolest thing ever.)

But anyway, that freedom to pursue my goal is something that's stuck with me ever since. I wasn't the best athlete on the show, nor was I the most outgoing or the prettiest or the smartest or the most popular or the coolest, and I could absolutely keep adding to that list. But hey, I did it. I was there. I somehow made it happen. And y'know, I really think accomplishing that set me up for everything I've done since. I'm not afraid to get single-minded and passionate and recklessly pursue my goals. 'Cause yo, look what happened the first time I did! I'm still not the most talented or the prettiest or the smartest etc. etc. etc., but if the odds are 20 in 10,000 or better, I think I like my chances.

Bottom line: you want to do something? Okay, cool. Go do it.

So cheers, April 14th. You're alright.

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Tick Tock, I'm A Slave To The Clock

Honest hour #1: I never mean to go a week without posting. But then all of a sudden I blink and it's Wednesday and I haven't posted since last Wednesday and WTF, mate?! Does anyone else feel like time is blipping by alarmingly fast? It doesn't help that by the time I get home from work, work out, shower, eat dinner and make lunch for the next day, it's 9:00 at night and all I want to do is drink tea and be a vegetable on the couch. If you have a full-time job and manage to blog every day, I have mad respect for you. Yes: mad respect.

Honesty hour #2: Has anyone else heard of the Doomsday Clock?

Essentially, it's a way to symbolically show how close we as a society are to world-ending catastrophe. It was started during the Cold War, for pretty obvious reasons of impending destruction. In 1953, when the hydrogen bomb was first developed, the clock stood at two minutes to midnight, which is the most dire situation it's reflected. Things got as good as 17 minutes to midnight, with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since 2012, we've been hanging out at five minutes to midnight.

I don't really remember how I first discovered this concept, but it was a good number of years ago and it's been stuck in my consciousness ever since. It's kind of fascinating to think about, and there's something about the whole metaphor that I find appealing. Morbid, yes, but still.

Recently I had an epiphany: for the last year and a half, my life has felt like it's been ruled by a doomsday clock of its own.

What the hell am I blathering on about?

Well, starting in the spring of my senior year of college, life became not so much about looking forward to what's coming (i.e. the next vacation, the next semester, etc.), but it became a countdown to The End. I was graduating college, and then... nothing. It was terrifying. Terrifying. I made myself sick with worry about my impending world-ending catastrophe, and every single day I felt the clock ticking. Only a few months left. Your life ends in May. Doomsday is coming. Tick tock, tick tock...

Thankfully, midnight was avoided after graduation as I got my internship with USA Volleyball and shipped off to Colorado for the summer. But that respite was short lived, and I had to start worrying and searching for a new job two months later. I saw midnight approaching and felt the weight of the clock settle on my shoulders again.

Again, however, midnight was avoided. My internship was extended through the end of the year, and I had a great few months of job security. But, again, it didn't take long for doomsday to force itself to the forefront. I scrolled through job boards that were bleakly empty and sent out a handful of resumes to the jobs I was able to find, my panic escalating. Five minutes to midnight. Four minutes to midnight. Three minutes to midnight. Two minutes to midnight. One minute to midnight.

Finally, inevitably, the doomsday clock struck twelve. My internship ended, I didn't have a job, and I officially became a statistic: an unemployed recent college graduate living at home with her parents. As someone trying to prove to people that this generation isn't as cruddy and disappointing as the older generations think it is, I was utterly demoralized. There were no jobs relevant to my career path to even apply for, so I set about trying to make a life for myself in my own post-apocalyptic world. (Meeting Jim Craig and Buzz Schneider certainly softened the blow a little bit.)

But then, lo and behold, I got a temporary job! Woohoo! It was like finding a little pocket of survivors out in the nuclear wasteland. So it was back out to Colorado, where I threw myself into the madness of Sochi 2014 head-on and enjoyed every second of it (even the seconds at 3 o'clock in the morning). I settled into my apartment, a routine, made a life for myself.

And now, again, the seconds are starting to tick louder and I'm starting to get panicky. Only a few months left. Your life ends in May. Doomsday is coming. Tick tock, tick tock...

As I face the prospect of clicking desperately between barren job boards again, all I can think about is how much this sucks. I don't even mean the whole looking-for-a-job thing -- that's it's own can of worms entirely -- but the fact that there's a constant end date in sight. Of course I'd much rather have a temporary job than no job at all, but can we talk about something? This is the fifth time in the last calendar year that I can say that I don't know where I'll be living in two months. What the heck?! How is that even possible? At this point, I don't know how I'll deal with the stability once I eventually do get a permanent job.

I realize that likening my own life to the Doomsday Clock is probably not the rosiest outlook to have. But how do you stay positive when, uh, the end is near? Because, honestly, right now I'm really feeling the effects of two minutes to midnight-inducing H-bomb tests. I'm about to start building myself a bunker. Hey, at least now I know I can survive midnight, right?

The thing is, although I've faced the prospect of midnight numerous times now, it's always worked itself out. My "world-ending catastrophe" ended up being a nice, refreshing month off for the holidays (ish) that ended when I got the job I've always wanted (albeit temporarily). So clearly I need to have a little more faith in the universe. And myself.

So these coming weeks are going to be an exercise in positivity. Life is an adventure, and there will inevitably be bumps in the road. I can't let myself get distracted from enjoying everything my current situation has to offer. And if it ends and there's nothing after that, what's the worst that'll happen? I'll lick my wounds, circle the wagons and find whatever the powers that be have in store for me next. Been there, done that.

Stability and control will return to my life eventually. And I'm slowly (slooooowly) learning to be okay with not having all the answers. (But if you try and talk to me about the job hunt, I'll still become the biggest grouch you've ever met. Hey, baby steps.)

Is anyone else out there tired of always having an expiration date? And how do you stay positive?

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Snippets From The Road: The Vagabond Life

vagabond (n) - a person who wanders from place to place without a home or a job.

So, remember that time my dad and I drove the 1,800+ miles between Colorado and New York twice in less than a month?

Road trip across America

(Note: I apologize for the hot mess that is that Indiana picture. Totally failed.)

I wasn't really planning on blogging about the first road trip, since it was more of a necessity than anything else. But then it happened again and, though it was also a necessity the second time, it sort of became a thing. A thing worthy of being immortalized on the interwebz. But then, between starting my job and the whole Olympics thing, reliving the road trips got put on the back burner.

But today, those long days on the open road finally get their moment in the sun!

I said goodbye to the OTC and Colorado Springs on Christmas Day, driving my stuffed-to-the-gills car to Denver to pick up my dad from the airport. We stayed in Denver that night, where I got a huuuuuge kick out of this:

Dirty hotel shuttle

...and my dad ogled the mountains a lot. The next day, it was up and at 'em bright and early for the first leg of the journey!

Denver, Colorado to Topeka, Kansas

Driving through Kansas is a whooooole lot of nothing, with some windmills and oil drills sprinkled in. It was much hillier than my dad and I expected, but nonetheless, we were loving the wide open spaces. And people are friendly there! Seriously, I adored driving through Kansas!

Topeka, Kansas to Terre Haute, Indiana
Francis Field, University of Washington, St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis Arch
Giant cross in Illinois
Strawberry lemonade at Cracker Barrel

Day two was a good one (except maybe not for the guys dealing with that overturned truck)! We stopped at Francis Field in St. Louis, which hosted the Olympics in 1904, saw what has to be the biggest cross in existence, and ended the day at Cracker Barrel in Terre Haute, Indiana. For the record: my dad beat that brain game. I did not.

Terre Haute, Indiana to Pennsylvania
Columbus, Ohio

When I said I adored driving through Kansas, I wasn't kidding. I have a ton of pictures of the barren plains, and all but zero pictures starting from about Ohio on day three. :P What can I say? I don't find civilization all that interesting! But the city in the picture is Columbus. Because if it isn't documented, did it really happen? Hashtag social media. Also, three state lines in a single day two days in a row felt really accomplished, even if we were in West Virginia for literally under 20 minutes.

Pennsylvania to New York

Apparently day four (or three and a half, since we were only on the road for a few hours) didn't happen, because there are zero photos to prove it, other than the New Jersey state sign. I even missed getting a picture of the "Welcome to New York" sign, because leave it to my home state to ruin my goal of getting all of them. Sigh. But anyway, you'll have to take my word for it!

About a month passes -- set some goals, met two of my heroes (and got my phone stolen in the process), and got a job -- and suddenly I'm finding a roommate on Craigslist, cramming my life back into Buzz and waking up before dawn to retrace our steps. This trip was documented far less meticulously, since we were all about booking it to Colorado as fast as humanly possible so I could move into my apartment and start work ASAP. So we did the drive in three days instead of four. Rock on! (Props to my dad for driving the entire first day of his own free will. #roadwarrior)

Car troubles in Pennsylvania
Rain in Pennsylvania

We ran into some fun weather and windshield wiper issues in Pennsylvania.

Driving through Ohio

It was super flipping cold in Ohio.

Giant cross in Illinois

Saw that giant cross again in Illinois!

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

Stayed at a hotel right across the street from Kauffman Stadium in Missouri.


And finally re-entered Colorado! (Fun fact: the town on the border of Colorado and Kansas is named Kanorado. Creative.)



Our first trip had been flawless, weather-wise. A tiny bit of rain as we neared the east coast, and that was it. Otherwise, it was beautifully sunny and unseasonably warm. The second trip, though? Not so much. It was freezing everywhere, and there was plenty of snow and grossness. Buzz was no longer a maroon car; he was white.

Buzz the car

Blech. I wish I'd gotten a picture before a dewy morning got a lot of the gunk off, 'cause you would not believe how grimy he was.

Buzz the car

But look how cute and happy he was to be back in Colorado! :) He's the smiliest car I've ever seen!

It's an interesting life out there on the road. You learn things, like how to know you're approaching a state line, and that the Burger King in Colby, Kansas significantly upgraded its Coke machine since the last time you were there, and how to properly stretch when the crick in your neck becomes an unbearable inconvenience. And you learn to be really, really appreciative that you have a dad that'll sit through seven backbreaking days in a car with you (and poke around under the hood in below-freezing temperatures when the windshield wiper fluid stops working) and has already committed to doing it again the next time you inevitably have to move.

I highly encourage everyone to take a cross-country road trip if you get the chance to! I'd love to do it again at a leisurely pace and actually get to see the cities we had to just zip through. It's definitely a bucket list type of experience, and I really enjoyed being out on the open road... even that stretch of Kansas that didn't have a classic rock radio station.

Anyone else have road trip experiences they'd like to share? :)
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