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.

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