I am almost certain that mine is not the Olympic story the world wants to hear about—not because I didn’t get a medal or something, but because I can’t lie. I’ve spent the last few days looking through photos on my phone, wondering which 8 or 10 I should select and post with a nice caption and ‘thank you’ to the Olympics for such a purely wonderful experience. But it occurred to me that the world has a lot of that perspective right now, and me pretending to have the same one might do more damage than good for people like me who could benefit from my truth.
The Olympics were fine for me. I feel exactly the same as I did before them; I don’t feel complete, don’t feel more accomplished or better than anyone else all the sudden. In fact, the main thing I feel is relief. I got through it. I lived up to the internal and external pressures to qualify for the team and compete for my country. Whew. Now I can take a deep breath.
I had some moments that I really enjoyed at the Olympics, but I also had my fair share of moments that were simply not fun. Most of my time was just about neutral. I feel guilty for admitting that, when obviously, the Olympics is something that so many people would die to experience. So many of my peers are disappointed not to have made the Olympic team, or to have made the team but not receive the starts they had hoped. I had both of those blessings come true, but still felt quite empty throughout the whole thing.
Why can’t I see the Olympics in the glorified way the world does? For every person crying tears of joy on a podium, I saw a dozen people looking disappointed or drying tears of sadness behind the scenes. I saw broken dreams. I saw dreams coming true, and people realizing that maybe that dream wasn’t all they’d imagined after all. I saw pressure and stress that brought out people’s shortcomings. I saw expectations not being met, and teammate relationships damaged. I saw isolation and low self-worth and confused identity and claustrophobia within the Olympic world. In many ways, the worst part was that I could do nothing about it because all my energy went toward surviving many of those things myself. Honestly, all of that sucked.
But don’t get me wrong—I’m able to see the incredible moments that came with the experience too. Watching halfpipe and aerials and biathlon in person with some of my closest friends, for example. Meeting a skier from my hometown who felt like a long-lost sister. Watching Ted Lasso with my roommates in the evenings. Bushwhacking through the mountains near the village to find a peaceful headspace. Heck, I’ll even look fondly on the numerous times I ate KFC take-out to avoid the dining hall boredom! Writing these examples made me realize just how many positive small moments there actually were and I could go on and on…. But, interestingly, most of those moments were simple, normal life joys that had relatively little to do with actually being at the Olympics.
I left the Olympics feeling more at peace with my sense of identity as a skier because I felt somehow empowered by and connected to those little normal-life moments. I learned a bit more about how I’d like to be a better teammate, and how I need to signal safety to my nervous system to keep my brain health in a good place. I uncovered a bit more purpose in the sport of skiing for myself and set some goals that have nothing to do with results. In the end, this experience wasn’t about fun and glory the way it had been portrayed to me over the years. It was about internal growth for humans in the face of intense emotion, pressure, and expectation. I’m not really sure why I'm writing this as I’m still processing the experience myself, but I couldn’t post on social media about a wonderful time without acknowledging the challenge and growth as well. So thank you, Olympics, not for the incredibly fun experience, but for the opportunity to grow as a human being. That’s something I hope I’ll never forget.And now, my 8 to 10 photos of some happy little moments:
Skiing with my awesome wax tech, Tim.
Friends Hannah and Julia and I with Bing Dwen Dwen!
View of the course from the beginning of my bushwhacking adventure.
Eating dinner on the floor after closing ceremonies at 11pm. Oof!
At closing ceremonies! It was a cool performance.
We had bikes to get around the village, so we visited Bing on a bike cruise. This is where Hannah and I would go and chat outdoors.
My sista from another mista, Hanna, after her halfpipe comp! So cool to get to cheer her on in person.
Racing the relay scramble leg-- really honored to be able to do that!
Thanks homies <3