Adventure and opportunity: A different look at 2010

While much of my writing life revolves around my triathlon-specific endeavors, 2010 had other highlights. A quick pictorially-inspired retrospect of the year aside from my tri life:

Winter fun

Armed with snowshoes and poles, my dad and I set out to walk about Chestnut Ridge Park. We tried to follow the cross-country ski trails but alas, we still got a bit lost and turned around and our nice, light walk in the snow turned into a two-hour trek. What made me laugh the most? When, unsure of exactly where we were in the park, we emerged from a trail at a large sign proclaiming ORIENTEERING. Yes, perhaps we would need a course in such a skill, although long ago while hiking through regional parks, my father and I decided we would have made terrible Native Americans or European explorers. The woods, well, it all looks the same to us. But we asked directions, made it back to the lodge, and had a rather enjoyable day.

Moving the winter sports inside, Mark took me to Canada for my first curling outing. The instruction part didn’t go so well as I ended up face-first on the ice (although tailgating in the parking lot while waiting for the rest of the curling crew to arrive probably did not help my cause). While no where near actual curling proficiency, I found the sport rather fun and something I gradually got better at. This puts curling ahead of bowling on my personal proficiency list. While I started to get the hang of throwing the stone and even sweeping as the afternoon wore on, bowling is a sport in which I progressively get worse. My third game is usually my lowest score — and this is without the benefit of alcoholic consumption. Not that I dislike bowling. But I think I may be a better curler. That is, if I can stay upright on the ice when throwing the stone.

Into the Woods

While it was alluded to in my Year in Review post, Mark and I took some amazing jaunts into the outdoors around the greater Western New York Area. Some of them were pleasant. Some were challenging. Some of them, I admit, forced me to face some fears because of terrain and impending darkness and uncertainty as to where we were and how, exactly, we were going to get out of the river bed we were currently following. But whether it was a pleasant trail run in familiar territory or an off-the-beaten-path journey to find hidden waterfalls, I found challenges and joy. I faced a few fears, learned to let them go, learned to appreciate the moment and to enjoy laughing at myself. There is beauty all around and there is fun in even the most difficult situations. Most of all, I found myself exactly where I wanted to be, and eventually let myself just be forgoing the need to justify my joy.

New places

While triathlon took me to Galveston, Texas for the first time, there were two trips to the West Coast (oddly close together) that let me experience new things.

First up was the Association for Women in Sports Media convention held in Los Angeles. While as the incoming president, my days were filled with meetings, I did get to enjoy a few outings, including a trip to the Grammy Museum and a quick photo on the light floor from Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean video.

Second came a trip to San Francisco with Mark to (a) visit his brother, (b) run in the Bay to Breakers 12K and (c) have a vacation. The trip was jam-packed with wine tasting, a Ben Folds concert, a race and taking in the traditional sites of the Bay area, including the Sea Lions.

I love traveling to new places. It offers not just new experiences but a chance to refresh, a chance to return home and look at life a bit differently. The trip doesn’t need to be across the country or across an ocean to be meaningful. While the destination may hold a special significance, it’s the act of getting out of your daily routine, of allowing yourself to shift your perspective, which makes travel so powerful, life-changing and life-affirming.

Family

Not only did I become an aunt this fall, but a few weeks ago I was honored to become godmother to my only niece, Ellie. Sadly, Ellie and her parents live too far away for me to see her on regular basis (on the other hand, perhaps that’s a good thing for her parents) but that doesn’t mean she is an afterthought. I see Ellie and am reminded of possibilities — of how wide open our lives are. The sociologist in me wants to point out constraints of race, gender and class which can limit life chances, restrict possibilities, that people have. Sometimes it’s easy to look at structures and circumstances and conclude that no matter how good an attitude and how much hard work one puts in, the dream is still a distant hope. There is work that can be done to remedy that. In the end, what I’ve seen this year is that life is about taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Those openings might seem small to you, or small at first, but if you hold the big dream in your heart, hold it with certainty, your chance will come. The key is to be ready to recognize it when it does, because it may not look the way you imagined.

While I hope to be of value and service to Ellie as she grows up, her existence has inspired me. In order to be the aunt and godmother I most want to be, I need to be true to myself. I’ve had relatives who inspired me through the example of how they lived their lives. They would say it was nothing special. But to me, their lives offered choices and options and adventure. They helped a little girl dream. And they still help me understand that each day I get to choose who and what I want to be. My intention is to provide just a bit of that for Ellie by following my own path, no matter how wacky it may seem to others and even myself.

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