Sex And The Female Athlete

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Sex And The Female Athlete

In light of a recent article posted on Freeskier.com featuring the "Ten Hottest Women In Freeskiing," I'm compelled to address an issue that has been discussed time and time again.  Last year around this time, the Bleacher Report posted an article on the 25 Hottest Female Winter Sports athletes (in which I was included) which prompted me to write me to write my own article on the 25 Hottest Male Winter Sport Athletes.  As entertaining as it was to write this article and as enjoyable as it was to look up photos of attractive men on the internet for a few hours, I really wasn't targeting the root of the problem.  I was taking my frustration out (albeit in a humorous way) on men, who are deserving of attention for their athletic accolades, not their physical appearance.  And therein lies the problem.  Female athletes should be acknowledged for their success in their athletic pursuits, not for how "hot" they are.

I'm guilty myself of falling into the trap of using my sexuality to gain exposure.  As a 17 year old girl (at the time of the photo shoot, not of the publication) I was asked to be a part of Freeskier's "Women of Freeskiing" issue.  The magazine came out in the fall of 2004, I believe it was the 3rd annual issue, and I had just turned 18.  The previous winter I landed on the podium of the US Freeskiing Open in Vail, CO and followed it up with a 4th place finish in Whistler at the World Ski Invitational (WSI).  Back then, I was known for having "man-sized air" as one article noted, and I burst onto the scene with so much motivation and enthusiasm for what would lie ahead.  Little did I know that my first chance to be in a ski publication would have more to do with my good looks than my skiing talent.  I posed in a bubble bath.  A bubble bath. And I don't even like baths!  At the time, I thought it was great.  I actually really enjoyed the photo shoot--I love sports but I've always loved being a girl too, I love to get dressed up and I'm really not shy in front of the camera--but my 17 year-old self didn't realize what I was allowing to perpetuate.  Thank heaven the internet wasn't as prevalent back then, or when you google "Jen Hudak" today, an image of me sitting in a bubble bath would be the first image to come up.

The Real Problem

That is the real problem.  These sexy images of female athletes live on forever and can actually do the athlete disservice.   The more attention that is paid to a woman's looks, the less attention gets paid to the woman herself, her accomplishments and her athletic achievements. She just becomes another piece of eye-candy.  You see that with Danica Patrick right now!  Danica consistently gets criticized for having bought her way into NASCAR for her marketability (ahem, hotness) and not for her driving ability.  The fact of the matter is, that woman is fast behind the wheel of a car.  (You can read more on my assessment of Danica Patrick here).  But because of how much she has allowed her appearance to be exploited, people actually lose sight of how talented she is.

For example, recently Elena Hight became the first woman to land a double in the halfpipe on a snowboard (and only one of 3 people, male and female alike, to do that particular double) and subsequently this summer she posed in ESPN's Body Issue.  ESPN usually does a terrific job at showing off athlete's bodies in their unique sizes & shapes and displaying the strength of the women through the photos, so I understand Elena agreeing to do the shoot.  Elena is an amazing woman, athlete, and spirit- she cares greatly about health and fitness as you can see from her website and blog, but I worry about the effect of these photos.  Elena's accomplishments on her snowboard may get lost in the shuffle because of the images that ESPN released.  But how much control is given to the athletes during these shoots? What kind of artistic direction, guidelines and limitations should be set?  It can get really frustrating as a female athlete to put thousands of hours into your craft, and not get deserved exposure for it.  At a certain point, it feels that these opportunities are the only way we can share what we do!

So  Who's Responsible?

It is hard to pinpoint where to place the blame.  Is it the media's fault for covering women in this way, or is it the fault of the men who want to read these articles over other articles pertaining to women's athletics, or is it the women themselves who are to blame?  When a specific photo shoot is in order (like the one I did in 2004), I would say the women that partake have some responsibility in it, but in this case, it seems only Freeskier is to blame.  This issue has been debated before, but this time around it has been different.  I've seen men engaging in the conversation, men who are just as frustrated about this kind of exploitation as women. That takes a different tone.  Perhaps the biggest issue with this most recent list is the fact that it was posted from Freeskier.  Freeskier's focus should be on the "skiing."  There are plenty of other publications out there whose soul focus is on attractive women: FHM and Maxim to mention a few, so perhaps we can leave the objectification to them.

So where do we go from here?  Freeskiing is still fairly young in its roots but it does have an aging audience.  I've been doing this sport professionally for over a decade now which means that the guys who were 17 when I was 17 are now 27 year old men.  Perhaps they would be interested in seeing some skiing out of these women who are acclaimed to be the "hottest" things in freeskiing.  I know the women are up for it, they're living it and doing it every day.  Maybe we don't have front flips off of 100+ foot cliffs, but 60' ain't too bad, is it Rachael Burks?

photo by Blake Jorgenson

Perhaps we don't have triples on jumps, but we've got girls doing doubles (ahem, Lisa Zimmerman, Jamie Crane-Mauzy, Tatum Monod and others...).

Lisa, making the Nine Queens jump her own!

And maybe we haven't gotten the dub 12 in the pipe yet, but 1080s are pretty cool, right, Brita Sigourney, Anna Drew and Roz G? (Oh, and maybe me too [insert blushy face]...)

Riding my favorite pipe at Park City!

What these ladies do on the hill is more than most men in the world can do and that deserves some attention.

(Now, just for curiosity's sake... go ahead and Google images for Danica Patrick, Kristi Leskinen, and Lindsey Vonn. Now google Jimmie Johnson, Tom Wallsich and Ted Ligety.  The images that come up are a little different aren't they?)

When Your Dreams Begin To Haunt You...

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Most kids are taught to dream big.  When we're young, we bravely think anything is possible. But as the years tick by and we see failed dreams all around us, we begin to doubt the truth in that. Society begins to beat us down. Eventually, those dreams begin to haunt us.

It Starts With A Dream

I have wanted to be an Olympian since I was 12 years old.  Initially I thought it would be in mogul skiing, but when I found a halfpipe in 2002, I found my true calling.  At the time there were no Olympic Games for halfpipe skiing. It was so impractical to become an Olympic Halfpipe Skier that it made the dream easier to have.  In essence, I couldn’t be accountable for “failing” to go to the Olympics, if there were no Olympics.  There were so many external obstacles that could make this dream impossible.  So, I focused on all the other contests as potential stepping-stones for what I ultimately wanted to achieve. All the while, I was softly focused beyond those goals.  It was like Les Brown says, “shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.” 

As I began to achieve these smaller goals, one-by-one, I found a deep satisfaction with my ski career.   Sure, there were ups and downs, but gradually goals were being crossed off my list of “to-dos.” Win a world cup, check, win US Open, check, win WSI, check, win X-Games, check.  But this one goal always remained: win the Olympics.  When the sport officially gained acceptance in 2011, my dream suddenly began to feel daunting instead of motivating and I couldn’t understand why.

Having the Olympic dream as my larger goal, made all the smaller goals easier to achieve. They never overwhelmed me, because they paled in comparison to what I was really trying to accomplish.  But now this is it. We are getting down to the wire. There is a clearly defined timeline of when I need to be performing at my best, and my best suddenly needs to be better than a lot of other amazing skiers.  What is bigger than the Olympics?  How can I reach the mindset that I had when I was younger with this one last dream of mine? Perhaps I need to dream bigger, not just dream of being an Olympian, but reinstate my dream of being an Olympic Gold Medalist.  To do that, being an Olympian will have to happen, so I will begin to see myself as an Olympian, before I even get there. 

The Haunting Begins

When you get close enough to realizing your dreams, when you can visualize yourself standing atop that Olympic podium, national anthem blaring, grinning ear to ear, proud before the millions of people you’ve inspired - that's when the stage is set.  As we get closer to the Olympics, I look around the US Ski Team gym and realize that every athlete in here is aspiring toward that same goal.  Suddenly, I can see that person on the podium being someone else entirely - not me.  What makes me so special, what should I be the “chosen one?”  A sinking feeling in my gut overtakes me. 

I start to imagine myself on the sidelines watching another person realize my dream. The future that was supposed to be mine now belongs to someone else.  And that was when my dream began to haunt me.  It was as if my mind was preparing to deal with the potential “failure,” that might ensue.  “Disappointment management” I like to call it.  My father does this all the time, while watching sporting events on TV.  Towards the end of a game, if my his team is down, he’ll say, “That’s it! It’s over...” even if there is a reasonable chance for a comeback.  He’ll prepare himself for the disappointment that he might feel if his team does loose. But if they win, he’ll be that much more elated! 

To take this approach as a spectator is one thing, but to do that as an athlete, is another.  If you think you’re going to lose you will, more than likely, lose.  So, as scary as it is to see yourself as the winner because of the possibility that you will fall short of your expectations, that is the only way to achieve your goals.  See yourself where you want to be.

Look Beyond Your Fears

In moments when your dreams feel overwhelming, your mind begins to play tricks on you.  It will attempt to minimize your goals, “What do the Olympics matter anyway?” It will actually try to convince you that your dream is fruitless and superficial, “you’re a fool to be attached to such a lofty goal because there is so much luck involved.”  Yes it is true that timing can be everything—so rarely does an opportunity like this come around.  But we can’t be afraid to dream. 

If I never dreamed of being an Olympian I don’t think I would be able to say that I am X-Games Gold Medalist or a World Champion.  It was the courage to look beyond what was directly in front of me that carried me so far.  It’s like climbing a ladder. If you're only looking at the rung directly in front of you, it’s not overwhelming, but as soon as you look behind you and realize how far you’ve come, how high you’ve climbed, the thought of falling becomes very scary.  The closer I inch toward my Olympic dream, the closer I get, the deeper the wound will be if I don’t make it.  There is much further to fall now than when I began this journey as a wide-eyed, naïve teenager.

Pressing On

The last few years have been extremely humbling. Many of my worst fears came true, and somehow I was still okay.  I know that I want this, I know that it is worth the fear and the doubt to continue in this pursuit.  I hope to rise to my potential in time for the Olympic Games, to have my comeback moment occur when it matters most, but I also know that what is meant to happen will unfold.  This is my path, and I must believe it is the right path—I will follow it through the brush, until it ends.  From there I will find my way. 

"Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it."  Bill Cosby

I'm Not Done Yet

The alarm went off at 6:15 as it has every morning for the last week and a half.  It’s dark outside- winter’s dawn won’t be for over an hour.  My bed feels too hot, and I struggle against the tightly tucked layers of sheets and blankets, to free my left leg and expose it to the crisp air.  Ahhhh.  At first I forget that I don’t need to be awake; it’s finals day for the New Zealand Winter Games, and I failed to qualify.  But my roommates and teammates, Anais and Anna, need to get up, as does our coach Elana.  We are sharing quarters for the month down here as we train and get ready for the biggest potential contest of our lives, The Olympics. For the last week we have been on the same schedule: 6 a.m wake up, slow crawl out of bed, immediately turn the electric kettle on to boil water for our French Press coffee, whose plunger is currently held together with medical tape (it’s all we have on the road).  I prepare 2 eggs mixed with a bit of milk; the gas stove in our kitchenette burns hot, so the eggs cook quickly if you don’t keep an eye on them and getting my gluten free bread toasted perfectly by the time my eggs are done cooking is always a challenge.  After a week, I’m beginning to get it down.

My eyes and head feel heavy.  Abruptly leaving behind the long days of summer for the stunted days of winter in New Zealand makes mornings seem darker than usual—we’ve been cut off of our sun addiction cold-turkey.  My 2 other roommates awaken around the same time and we awkwardly dance through the small living-dining-cooking space, as everyone prepares for the day ahead—Anais with her yogurt and muesli, Anna with some toast with an egg, ham and cheese, Elana with a cup of coffee.  Slowly ski clothes find their way out of the bedrooms, ski pants climb their way up our legs, excess coffee is poured into to-go mugs and we tumble out the door toward our cars.

Elana drives the Ford Ranger—it’s 4-door truck with a short bed, but it seats 5.  All of our skis and poles go in the back of the Ranger (11 pairs in total) and 5 people load into the cab.  My car, as I like to call it, is a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado—“The Prado”.  It’s a huge, wide, very American looking SUV.  We have one of the rear seats up, so that we can fit 6 people, 6 backpacks and 6 pairs of boots.  I climb into the right side of the Prado as the rest of the kids fight over shotgun and bitch.  The auxiliary cord gets passed to the backseat somewhere and Lil Wayne begins to sound.  I’m always shocked at how good rap can make me feel before the sun is even up.

We pull out of our drive, remembering to stay left.  Some days Elana is the lead car, and other days I am; some days we try to break ground speed records and other days we try to practice the skill of patience as we sit behind a car going a mere 90 kmh in a 100 zone.  Elana is typically more aggressive on the pavement in the first part of our drive, while I prefer the dirt of the second half.  Getting up to the base of Cardrona Ski Resort takes between 28 and 40 minutes (depending on how we choose to drive) and the pipe is open from 7:30-11 or 10 or 12… New Zealand isn’t the best at creating a consistent schedule.  But, this morning is a contest day, so the schedule will be a little different.  And then I remember, I’m not competing.

Yesterday was the qualifiers for the World Cup.  Going into it I was feeling really good.  My skiing was progressing nicely, training had been on a steady incline and I was prepared to peak for contest day.  My warm-up runs felt solid, and I was done with about 5 minutes remaining of our 35-minute session.  There were 26 girls competing and I felt confident about being in the top 12 to qualify for finals.  The run that I was competing was fairly basic compared to my best skiing of 2 years ago.  Big straight air, alley-oop mute, 540 safety, alley-oop 5, cork 7 tail, switch 180.  That run earned me 2nd place at this exact contest 2 summers ago.

In my first run I landed really low on my alley-oop 5, I didn’t touch the ground with any part of my body and I fought through, determined to stand up and finish the rest of the run.  I was really proud to have skied away from that trick and glad to feel the strength in my right leg after all it has been through.  Last winter, stepping into my binding was a challenge and now I am able to pull off landings that would be tough for anyone of any age, gender, health or strength.  My score was a 68 and put me in 9th.  I was happy to at least be in finals, for the time being.  I made the decision to keep my alley-oop 5 in for the 2nd run- my thought process being that I’m not going to the Olympics without it, and I felt that I will land it better and improve my score from run 1.  Most of that statement was right, I landed the trick better, but still low and somehow felt really slow going into my 720, last minute I thought to do an air to fakie instead so that I could still do a switch 180, but I decided too late and ended up just flailing on a straight air.  I didn’t fight.  My stomach sank, and I felt that I had just made a big mistake.

My intuition was right.  4 girls managed to land better 2nd runs and I moved from 9th place to 13th—one spot out of finals, one short fight away.  But sometimes that is how the cookie crumbles.  My intention for this first event was to do the run that I did.  My skiing is exactly where I had wanted it to be at this time, but adjusting to where that has placed me was tough.  As I said, 2 years ago that run landed me on the podium (granted it was a little cleaner) and now it didn’t even make finals.  It is a proud moment to observe the growth that this sport has gone through, but an intimidating one.  The path that I have laid out for myself has me peaking in December, taking every step, and pausing there for a moment, one new trick in training, one new trick in a contest run; not skipping ahead just for the sake of a competition.

I'm feeling reconnected with the sport that I once loved greatly and drifted away from for a while.  It feels really good to be motivated again, to want to learn new tricks, to be able to focus on the elements that are in my control, no longer distracted by the doings of others. The Olympics won’t mark the end for me whether or not I qualify to compete, so I will just continue look ahead.  I will progress on the timeline that I lay out, not forcing anything based on the looming event that has us all on pins and needles.  I’m not done skiing yet.

Staying focused on your future goals in times when you fall short of your immediate goal is imperative to success.  Know that you have what it takes to get there as long as you are patient.  Often we are only one trick, one day, or one moment away from being where we intend to be, but we give up just before we can see over the horizon.  Do not quit too soon,  “character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”  Thanks for that, Helen Keller.

(Side note: I watched finals that morning.  It turned into a one run contest because the fog was so intense.  My US Freeskiing teammate Devin Logan, ended up winning.  It was her first contest back from an ACL tear she suffered in New Zealand one year prior.  My good friend Angeli VanLaanen got 2nd, her first podium at a Platinum level event since her return to skiing post recovery from Lyme Disease treatments.  Anna Drew ended up in 5th after crashing really hard on a right 900 in training (her unnatural way of spinning).  I was happy to see her healthy and skiing.  And Anais did a beautiful 900 first hit and went a little big on her alley-oop 5 resulting in a crash. She ended up 12th, but is skiing really well. On to the next one.)

Wednesday Workouts: Competitiveness and Circuit Training

I have been an athlete my entire life and for the last 10 years I have been fortunate enough to make a living as an athlete.  There have been so many learning opportunities along the way and an area that I have grown to truly appreciate is the work that takes place off the hill (or field, or floor) to be truly exceptional in one's sport or discipline.  The glory of what I do is often limited to a 30 second performance in a halfpipe where a panel of 5 judges decides my fate, but all of my growth and the majority of my happiness comes from the work that I do outside of the halfpipe.  This series aims to provide a little inspiration and motivation into your training goals.  There will be a combinations of workout ideas and some self-reflection thrown at you.  Take it or leave it.  Not everything will help everyone, but I hope you will find something in here to propel you forward! This week I want to first speak about competitiveness and then I will give you a 5-exercise circuit that I have been doing this spring as base-conditioning.

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For as long as I can remember people have commented on how competitive I am.  Often times, it would be stated in an almost negative way, as if I'm not having fun because I'm competitive.  Granted, in my younger days, I may have let my competitive nature get the best of me at times, but even today I feel that my competitiveness has been negatively stigmatized.  I've been thinking about this for a while, and I think I've gotten to the bottom of it- at least to the bottom of where my competitiveness comes from and the purpose that it serves in my life.  As for others' interpretations of my competitive nature, well, that's purely speculation, but I'll throw some thoughts to the wind.

There is a large spectrum of intensity in life.  We can go for a walk, power walk, jog, run, sprint or we can run marathons in 6 hours or in 2 hours, and if that isn't even enough we can run ultra-marathons.  You get the idea.  Everyone has a different preference and a different tolerance for activity, there is no right or wrong here, no good or bad, just differences.  For me, I enjoy exploring the idea of potential in everything that I do.  If I'm going to run a 5K I'd like to see how fast I can do it, I love living right at the edge of what is possible for ME. I happen to carry that trait into everything that I do, from playing bocce in the backyard, to ringing out groceries at Whole Foods when I worked there, I thrive on the notion of high performance and I examine what that means even in the most mundane of tasks.  It seems to make life more interesting, more enjoyable, and often more efficient.  I love efficiency.

Where the issue comes into play is when others are involved in the game, event, activity, what have you...  I am operating at a high level of intensity, at the reaches of my max.  But it is not to try to be better, faster or stronger than the people I am with, it is to see how good, how fast and how strong I CAN BE!  Sometimes this gets misinterpreted, understandably, and creates conflict.  I don't think that I'm alone in this...  I'm working on being okay with being called "competitive" and not feeling the need to be defensive about it, or to even explain myself .  This is a part of my character, and I'm guessing, a part of yours.  It is what makes us good and lets us experience life fully.

As William Faulkner says, “Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

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Wednesday Workouts: Competitiveness and Circuit Training

This is a series of 5 exercises that are to be performed back-to-back with speed and efficiency while maintaining proper form.  Circuit training is a great opportunity to practice the aforementioned concept of trying to better than yourself by timing each round and trying to shorten the duration of the rounds every time.

Once adequately warmed up and stretched out, find a light to medium weight that allows you to complete 6 reps of each exercise back-to-back.  Use the same weight for each exercise.  You can use a barbell as shown in the images or dumbbells depending on your preference and weight selection.  Once the round is completed, spin for 3 minutes and then repeat the circuit for a total of 4 rounds.  At the end of the circuit be sure to spin for 15 minutes and don't forget to stretch and foam roll!

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Stepping Back

Yesterday was the 9th time that I’ve turned south off of Interstate 70 onto CO-82 for the Winter X-Games in Aspen, CO and will mark my 8th Winter X-Games appearance.  (It would be my 9th appearance, but I was sidelined last year with a knee injury and attended the event as a spectator. You can read about that trip here.)  I couldn’t help but recount the feelings of anticipation that I’ve had every year, each year markedly different, but this one feels extremely special.  Most of my peers that I began this journey with 10 years ago are retired and no longer competing, male and female alike.  The girls that I would go to registration with, eat, train and party with are no longer by my side.  I will be, at 26 years young, the OLDEST competitor in the WXG women’s ski halfpipe field this year and the ONLY woman to have competed in the first women’s WXG ski halfpipe event in 2005.  As I made the journey to Aspen yesterday, I felt extremely nostalgic, lonely and proud- honored, to still be here, pursuing my dreams after a decade of hard work,devastating injuries, and the passing of friends. I recalled how excited I would get each year heading into town, thinking of the great halfpipe that we would be able to ski, story-lining my imagined success of landing new tricks and landing on the podium.  I’ve never driven to Aspen for X without the belief that I could win, but this year I have.  My knee is not yet 100% normal from my injury sustained over a year ago on January 10, but my strength is at 98% of what it was at my strongest in the fall of 2011.  I am able to ski, but the image that I have of the skier I once was is something I have let go of.  That’s not to say that I will never do the tricks that I once did before, or that I will never stand atop a podium again, but it’s not going to happen right now.  It’s a humbling feeling and an honorable one, to still want to go out, naked, exposed and vulnerable, to allow a judging panel to tell me that I’m not number 1.

For the first time in my career I’m not worried about wining, being the best, or being better than everyone else.  I’m focused on doing the best that I can, with what I have, where I am.  It’s a mindset that I’ve been told about for the last decade, one that is written about in every sports psych book on the market, but one that is scary to adapt, when the will to win carried you so far for so long.  It’s exciting to be in a place where I can watch these young girls throwing both way 900s, filling their runs with more technicality, switch hits, amplitude and grabs, and just feel proud- proud for them, and proud for myself, that I am still here, now, just skimming above the dogfight, doing my own thing.  I can’twait to do some of the big tricks that are in my arsenal, but if I don’t respect my body and I don’t accept where I am right now, I will never be able to do them again.

My sights remain set on competing in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia and the only way to get there is through living every day doing all I can.  Though my circumstances have changed, my end goal doesn’t need to.   Sometimes we have to take a few steps backward in order to move forward again.  It’s in this time that people often doubt themselves, doubt their ability to improve and decide it’s time to quit.  But a lot of the time, this is when you are inches away from your greatest success.

“The secret of life is to fall seven times and get up eight times.  Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” Paulo Coelho

 

25 Hottest Male Winter Sport Athletes

Yesterday I had the pleasant surprise of being featured on the Bleacher Report's list of 25 Hottest Female Winter Sport Athletes.  I'm not entirely sure how I feel about these lists...  On one hand I'm offended that they exist, but on the other hand, I'd be offended if I wasn't included.  There are a few other fellow freeskiers on the list including Ingrid Backstrom, Lynsey Dyer and Grete Eliassen, and though I know each of these ladies is beautiful, it is their skiing that really stands out to me. However, I don't feel like going into a moral escapade over this right now, so I figured that I'd have some fun and create a list of the hottest male winter sport athletes. This way, the men won't feel left out.  Check out the gallery below. Just like the judging in most of our sports, I've rated these men objectively in reverse order, saving the best for last... There is no opinion present.

Don't Let Your Dreams Define You


 

“Don’t run from your monsters because I hear they can heal you.” Jayson Haws

The last 3 months have been the most challenging few months of my life.  Without rehashing the details, but still informing new readers, I’ll catch you up.  On January 10th I sustained a severe knee injury, a season ending and career threatening injury, and that same day, my friend, greatest idol and rival sustained a life ending injury.  The following weeks and months were relentless.  I endured surgery on my knee as numerous friends and teammates also sustained season ending knee injuries.  Another friend was caught in an avalanche that took 3 lives, hers being spared because of a life saving airbag backpack.  My father has continued to battle the aftermaths of a non-optional stem-cell transplant needed to cure him of leukemia.  And my mother continues to bear the stress of our entire family, while being my father’s primary caretaker.  I should be broken down, unable to get out of bed, certainly not able to crack a smile.  I was for a while, but I am no longer.

When life gets this hard, we often collapse.  But sometimes it is within that collapse that we experience our greatest growth.   I hit rock bottom around the beginning of February.  I began questioning my path, what my goals and intentions were for this life, if the risks were worth taking.  At first I was extremely overwhelmed, too many thoughts of the past and fears for the future were bogging me down.  But then I had a realization about the importance of staying present. (I wrote about that here.) After living with the intention of staying present, I have begun to see some serious improvements in my well-being.  My life hasn’t dramatically turned around but I feel more emotionally stable and happier overall.

By focusing on this, I was able to resign myself to the present moment, to let it be.  I stopped keeping track of time, I stopped placing a timeline on my healing process, I stopped having expectations of where I should be.  I began to accept my circumstances any given day. Living by the motto: where I am, is where I am supposed to be.  I started making the best choices in every moment to encourage healing; I work as hard as I can when things feel great, and I back off when things don’t feel good.  And now, I am flowing with the tides; I am no longer fighting the current.

But there was still a part of me, deep inside, that wasn’t ready to completely let go.  The part of me that brought me great success in skiing, the competitor, my ego, it wasn’t ready to surrender- until yesterday. Friday morning, mid-workout, I had another epiphany.  One that led me to this thought: Don’t let your dreams define you.  Believe in your dreams, chase your dreams, but remember that YOU ARE NOT your dreams.   My competitive spirit was afraid to let go, because of the fear of not reaching my biggest goal: Olympic GOLD.  This is something that I have aspired toward for my entire life.  I always saw myself as an Olympic gold medalist, before my sport was even an Olympic event.   For a while, namely before my sport got added to the Olympic schedule, I wasn’t afraid to shoot for that dream.  There was a buffer there, something that I could always blame my “failure” on.  Hey, if my sport isn’t in the Olympics then it’s not my fault if I don’t go…  My mindset changed, or at least, my emotions changed when my sport got into the Games, and after this injury I began to feel even more doubt.  This “Fear of Failure” demon has been haunting my dreams, day and night.

It seems that people with big dreams all suffer through this in some way or another.   We attach ourselves so thoroughly to our dreams that the idea of not reaching them makes us sick to our stomachs.  Our sense-of-self feels threatened, our self-worth devalued, because we are unsure what we have to offer if we don’t reach that ultimate goal.  What we are missing, and what I just realized, is that it’s the way we choose to live in each moment that defines us, not the goals or dreams we are working toward.  It is the work that we are doing, not the work that is to be done, that makes us who we are.  So, for the first time, I feel at peace with what I am doing.   I will live with the intention of going to the Olympics. I will continue to make good choices, to try for that gold, but whoever said, “there is no such thing as try, there is either will or will not,” they lied.  Trying is worth a whole lot.  Trying is everything.  And trying may get you to your final destination, it may land you elsewhere, but if you are doing your best every day, then I believe you will finish where you were meant to.  Your value is in how you work, not simply in the work that you do.  So, try to be with yourself in every moment, and feel proud to be where you are. You are on the right track.