Hubs is an Olympics junkie. The past few mornings I’ve found him camped out on the couch watching curling on the Canadian network, and we’ve spent the last two nights cheering on the American snowboarders. The women’s competition was amazing to watch, and we all celebrated Chloe Kim’s incredible run. Although I couldn’t help but notice her teammate, Maddie, who gave it her all but fell on her runs and was left out of medal contention. The camera briefly followed her as she walked away, and I said to my son, “Imagine feeling so completely crushed and disappointed, and then having to face the media and maintain composure when all you want to do is cry.”
Then I started to think about all the times in my life when I’ve been disappointed, passed over, rejected– whether or not I’d faced those moments with grace and composure. Probably not. I’m a crier, and you better believe that if I had worked my butt off to get to the Olympic stage and missed the mark, I would have been a blubbery mess. These two weeks are full of excitement, of winning and medals and dreams come true. But they are also full of disappointments. We watched a replay of a Dutch speed skater who lost the gold by .003 seconds in the last Olympics. And I mentioned the gymnast whose second place off kilter smirk became a viral meme. If there is anything to be learned when in the public eye: be careful with your facial expressions. (And also your fingers. A recent google search turned up a controversy over another speed skater allegedly flipping off his opponent.)
Life is full of ups and downs. Of triumphs and disappointments. I’m from Buffalo, we know that all too well around here. Thankfully, most of us are able to express ourselves in the privacy of our own space, away from prying media eyes and flashing cell phone cameras. And I’m all for getting ragey/crying when your heart is crushed, but there is something to be said about handling it with grace. Especially when it comes to online behavior. I’ve seen posts from agents about how authors respond to rejection with hateful words and disrespect. That, my friends, will get you no where but black listed and openly mocked on Twitter. Keep a private journal instead. Or a diary on your phone where you rant about how unfair a decision feels. Whatever you do, don’t hit send.
The other thing I find remarkable about watching the Olympics is the spirit of persistence. Athletes who fall mid-run but then get up and finish it to the end. Those who have come back from injuries stronger and full of resolve. There’s an overwhelming sense of determination I think us everyday couch-surfing observers can apply to our own lives. Whatever your dream, big or small, don’t give up on it. Put the time in each and every day to make it happen, and believe that it is possible. Don’t let excuses get in your way. Failure happens. Falls happen. Disappointments happen. And I’m here to tell you: it sucks. But at least you don’t have cameras following you around and asking you how it felt to have your dreams squashed to bits.
You will succeed. Chances are it won’t be the gold medal, and maybe not at all what you expected. But success is available to everyone. And it will be all the sweeter because of what you had to do to keep getting back up over and over again.