What do you have after the Olympics? There comes a point in a person’s life when this goal is either achieved, or slips away from the grip of your hand. And then… What? For so many people, there are many years, days, hours, and minutes that are spent working up to that moment in time. And then… what is next?
I was one of the many little girls driven by the dream; the pigtailed child toddling in figure skates who heard a whisper from a coach saying that I could be the next Peggy Flemming, Dorothy Hamill, or Roslyn Sumners. And I was consumed by the possibility. School and friends were replaced by 5am practices and ten hour training days usually six to seven days a week. Summers meant being on display in cold fish bowls, stockings, gloves, and a cool crisp fog on your breath. There were no camps, field trips, sleepovers, or weekend getaways. My life became a series of figure eights, intricate moves, and forced performances. And then, one day…. it was gone.
I believe there is life after the Olympics. For the few who achieve the dream, there can be normalcy in life, and that immense energy can be redirected towards efforts of a greater good. For many more there does not have to be the dull ache of regret for a dream unattained. I know this because I wandered for several years, in many directions, as I looked for meaning in life. Something I could grasp onto; attempting to recreate my competitive persona.
Then one day, I decided to let go of the guilt and the shame. At that moment, I was able to realize that I could live for me. I tried new activities, participated in new sports, and discovered long forgotten hobbies. In time, I found peace with the innate urge to dive head first into projects and activities with such fervor that it bordered on the obsessive compulsive. I learned it was ok to do something just a little.
These days, I look forward to that September day when I can walk into a curling arena after a couple months away and smell the freshly frozen ice maintained by cold and compressors. It smells like home. What is even more satisfying is that I know I can be a great person, positively affect people, and do grand things without the validation of fame and glory. There is more to life than winning a gold medal. There are friends, fun, learning, adventures, and even competition that can fuel the fire in one’s soul. There is life after the Olympics. And it can be a wonderful life.