Yesterday morning I spoke at a Health and Wellness day that was being held for some of the local elementary and high school students. I had been asked about a month back if I would be willing to be the guest speaker that started the whole day off. I was pretty excited and a little nervous too of course. I had not spoken in front of a crowd in a few years, but knew that I had enough time to come up with something.
When I was still swimming and living more permanently in this area, I spoke to a lot of different groups and really enjoyed it. I love telling people of my adventures as an athlete and where life has taken me, but not because they're my stories or anything like that. I enjoy it because I hope that with each speech someone's life can be changed and someone out there can take strength from what I have told them and they can make the changes in their lives that they have been wanting to.
Yesterday's speech was no exception. I outlined five things that I think are necessary for a successful life and really tried to drive home that one person's version of success is not the same as another's. I also tried to convey to them that age should not play a factor in following your dreams. I was talking as much to the teachers as I was to the students.
The speech went very well I thought despite starting late and giving me less time to talk. That said, one of the teachers had made a beautiful slide show of my various accomplishments and I had to admit that I got a little choked up. All I could think was,
"dude, I did that!"
Here I was talking to people about dreaming and setting goals and I was reminded of everything I had accomplished not that long ago, by a slide show. This speech was also timed quite well as I've been slowly investing myself into training for a triathlon-as I'm sure you remember. Seeing that slide show and hearing the video clips of the Paralympics lit that fire in my belly. It's been a little spark slowly growing, but that display of excellence-not just mine, but other Paralympic athletes-fanned the spark into something bigger.
Last night at the gym, I pushed hard thinking about what I have done in the past and what I am capable of in the future. When Lindsay and I first arrived at the gym, I wasn't really feeling it. We had just taken the dogs for a run and my brain was in Puppy Play mode instead of Athlete Training mode. After hopping on to the elliptical for a warm up though, my brain started shifting gears and I was able to sink into my workout and get a lot of work done. Are you looking for the irony here? I'm getting to it. :)
It's ironic how things come up in life that make you step back and evaluate your situation right when you need it. Yesterday's speech was supposed to motivate young people to take control of their lives and be productive members of society. In my home town there is a very high rate of drug and alcohol abuse, especially amongst young people, and so the Health and Wellness Day was designed to show some kids that there are alternatives to ward off the boredom that they attribute the abuse to. I may have motivated students and/or teachers, I probably will never know, but in doing so I motivated myself.
The other ironic thing is that originally I was going to write this post complaining of the irony of my "thank you" gift being a pen, pad of paper and a candle. Given to a blind person by a high school dedicated to Special Needs students, but instead my post took on a life of its own and reaffirmed the positive that came out of yesterday.
And yet, just think of this...
Blind girl + pen + pad of paper = What the crap do I do with that?
Blind girl + candle = burning the house down? ;)