Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday Reflection: Michelle Kwan's 2002 Olympic Short Program

Saturdays are a day of reflection for me. After a long week, having a day off to sleep, regroup, and think about what has transpired, is restorative. Today, I am once again thinking about choices. The choices I've made, the choices I didn't make, and how both of those affect me. I often reflect on my current life and think about what brought me here.

More than four years ago, I made a choice that has impacted the rest of my life. I resigned from a management position in my job of nearly three years. I had no other job lined up. All I knew was that leaving my job was going to save my life and allow me to start a new one that was more in line with my values. I love writing and I have a passion for journalism that has never dwindled. I just knew then, just as I know now, that there is more for me in life than to sit in front of a computer and write. I needed to live a life that allowed me to get up out of my office, interact with people, and help people become better readers, writers, and human beings. As Henry David Thoreau said: “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

I do not regret my choice to leave journalism full-time to go into the world of education. There are days when it is a challenge, on many different levels, but in the end, the fact that I am challenged is one of the reasons that I know I made the right choice to change careers. I also consider myself lucky that not only have I discovered another passion in pedagogy, but also to have the opportunity to still freelance write on the side. One day I'd like to fuse both interests and write about education.

I have to remind myself of these choices and the results of my choices on days when I need that extra push. When thinking about decisions, and what to write on my blog day, Michelle Kwan's 2002 Olympic season came to mind. Michelle, a 4-time World Champion going into the Games, struggled in the fall competitions months before Salt Lake City. In a move that shocked skating fans around the world, Michelle left her long-time coach, Frank Carroll, and decided, in an unprecedented fashion, to go to the Olympics without a coach. As ardent admirers and supporters of Michelle, such as myself, it has always been difficult to understand why Michelle would do this, particularly because she arguably lost the gold medal because of a fall on a Triple Flip in the freeskate--a technical error that could have been avoided if she had a technician working with her. We often wonder, "What if?"

Though as we all know, (not that it deters us from doing so), it's pointless to question the past and beg for answers that we will never know the answer to.

In watching the "fluff piece" that NBC aired on Michelle, I got some insights into Michelle's decision making, and ultimately, into how she might feel about the consequences of her actions:


Michelle speaks of taking responsibility for her skating, of wanting to take advantage of her skating experiences, soaking everything in, and doing it on her own without relying on someone else. In the interview she says, "I've learned the best thing to do is to listen to your own voice."

As a result of her decision, Michelle faced a lot of criticism, and doubts from others, adding to the already immense pressure placed on her to bring home the only medal absent from her medal cabinet: Olympic gold. Michlle said that the pressure could either make her stronger, or make her crumble. She chose to rise to the challenge and flourish under the difficult circumstances.

This is an important question that I often consider: do you let the obstacles hold you back, or do you let it cultivate a conviction within to rise and meet the challenges, against all odds? I know there have been times in my life, many in the last year, when I haven't displayed the strength of character that I know I have, or the mental fortitude to stay as positive and determined as I know that I can be. There are times when I am disappointed in myself about this; however, I think the most important thing is to learn from the times when we have been less-than-our best, and use that as motivation to work harder toward being the best version of ourselves that we can be.

During the short program in Salt Lake City, skating to the music of Rachmaninoff, Michelle made a point to skate with more joy and abandon than she had in Nagano four years earlier. She learned from the past and gave the audiences the sparkle and emotion that she hadn't given them in 1998. Michelle created a moment with the audience that she and her fans will never forget.

No matter the end result of the competition, Michelle will always know that in that Olympic season, she listened to her voice, took ownership of her career, and did what she thought was best at the time. She did not end up with the gold medal after the freeskate, but perhaps her personal journey of independence, and the resulting satisfaction of being responsible for her life, was more rewarding in the end. The same can be said for me, and for everyone, as we remind ourselves that it's all about the process, not the result.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Inspiration: Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao's "Turandot"

Xue Shen adn Hongbo Zhao won the 2003 World Championships in Washington, D.C. with an unmatched grit, grace, and perseverance through injury. To this day, the program gives me chills. Throughout the championships week,Xue was nursing an ankle injury, at one point, not even being able to practice. When it came time to perform though, she was in rare form, delivering one of the greatest, gutsiest, and most-heartfelt performances the world of skating had ever seen.

After a long week full of challenges, this performance is an inspiration to me because it shows that you can be your best even when there are obstacles standing in your way. Anything is possible with dedication, focus, and above all, heart.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Night Inspirations

As another work week has come to an end, I am reminded that amid the delirium that results from lack of sleep, lack of nutrients, and maintaining a high-level of intensity, it is always passion, determination, and a drive to be my best that propels me forward. Watching figure Skating has always been a source of inspiration for me because it is an escape, an expression of emotion, and a manifestation of unbridled passion. Something about the fusion of competitive grit, artistic interpretation, grand music, and a flight across the ice equals just what I need to fill my spirits with joy, motivation, and ultimately, hope.

Enjoy some of my favorite inspirational performances!

Jeremy Abbott's "Hometown Glory":

Johnny Weir's "Unchained Melody":

Richard Dornbush's "Sherlock Holmes":

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig's 2010 Rachmaninoff freeskate:

Meryl Davis and Charlie White's "Notredame de Paris":

Evan Lysacek's "Rhapsody in Blue":

Kurt Browning, Paul Wylie, and Scott Hamilton's "Masters of Footwork":

Paul Wylie's 1992 Olympic Freeskate to "Henry the V":

Scott Hamilton's "The Sabre Dance":

Finding Balance: Michelle Kwan's "The Red Violin."

As another school week has come to an end, I once again feel totally depleted of strength and emotional-energy. I love my job, but there's no denying that it's exhausting in its level of intensity. Though after finding a different perspective tonight, I wonder if the job is truly as intense as I think it is, or if I am the one making it intense? Here is a quote I stumbled upon tonight:
"There's no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences." ~Jack Welch. Everyone must be faced with the same dilemma I am, but other people seem to manage. Maybe the balance really is more about my choices, the boundaries, and the priorities I set. Of course this seems obvious to me now. I've been letting work take as long as it takes, and the problem with that is that the work will never end, so it could honestly take all of my time (which it has been). The goal and the challenge for me now is to reevaluate what's important and to figure out how to effectively implement my new plan of action that puts my health and well-being first. If those two pieces are in place, then my work will fall into place.

Speaking of finding a balance, my first inspirational video of the evening will be Michelle Kwan's "The Red Violin" from the 2000 Worlds in Nice, France. That year Michelle was balancing classes at UCLA with the training schedule of a world-class athlete. At the Nationals that year in Cleveland, Michelle Kwan won in a less dominant style than usual, narrowly holding off the up-and-coming U.S. Stars, Naomi Nari Nam and Sasha Cohen. From that competition until Worlds, Michelle had to reassess her priorities and shift her balance to focus solely on her preparation for the World Championships. The fruits of her focus were manifested beautifully in a spirited and powerful performance to "The Red Violin," pulling up from 3rd to 1st in the freeskate, silencing her naysayers. This was Michelle's 3rd World title and one of her most haunting and memorable performances. Such conviction, fire, and speed.