Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monthly Goodness: Life is Not Always Fair

In my biography on my website, I wrote that the number one thing I learned from racing was: life is not always fair, but fairness does not have to control your ability to be happy or your ability to succeed.

I think that there is no better person that has proved this point than Whitewater Slalom Olympic Silver Medalist Rebecca Giddens. Rebecca is one of my dearest and closest friends.

In 1999 Rebecca and I were both racing for the U.S. National Team at the World Championships in Seu d'Urgell, Spain. In the team competition we shocked everyone when together with our other teammate, Mary Marshall Seaver we won the Silver Medal.  It was a great moment for the three of us as we were the total underdogs and came out of nowhere. This moment, however, was quickly overshadowed by a horrible and unfair incident.

A day later we all raced in the individual category for the much coveted World Championship Title. In yet another underdog performance, Rebecca came out of nowhere and posted the second fastest time earning herself a World Championship Silver Medal. I will never forget looking up at that scoreboard and seeing Rebecca’s name only one down from the top. I sat down and put my head in my hands. I couldn’t move. I was so impressed, overwhelmed, and a wee bit jealous that Rebecca had accomplished something we had all dreamed of achieving since we were little. This joy was unfortunately short lived. Right before the awards ceremony, Rebecca was stripped of her silver medal by a judging call of the most unfair nature.

I will not get into why the judges ruled to remove Rebecca’s silver medal – the politics involved in this judging call make my fingers burn as I write, but I will say this: there had never been a judging call like this one before, and because the judging call was so unfair rules were immediately implemented to ensure there would never be a judging call like this again. Let me repeat, there was nothing right or fair or decent about the judging call to remove Rebecca’s medal.

Can you imagine having dreamed of this kind of success your whole life, having worked so incredibly hard, and then having put it all together in the race of your life and wining the silver medal for it only to be taken away hours later by a political call of spite, indecency, and illegality?

Rebecca could have let this moment ruin her – burn her up inside and make her want to turn her back on whitewater slalom forever. I’m sure she thought about it. But, instead she put her head down and started training for the next World Championships, which wouldn’t be till three years later.

In 2002 we found ourselves at the World Championships in Bourg Saint Maurice, France. Rebecca was no longer an underdog. She was now highly favored to take home the gold. The riverbank was loaded with spectators, the huge jumbotron TV was focused on Rebecca as she sat in the start gate. She left the start gate in a blaze and continued to fly down the huge whitewater course. When she crossed the finished line no judge, no coach, no competitor, or fan would ever doubt her result – she was clearly the best in the world, and with the fastest time, she now sat on the very top of the leader board. Three hours later she was crowned the 2002 World Champion becoming the first U.S. female Whitewater Slalom World Champion since 1979.

I want to drill home my point to this posting – unfair things happen to all of us every day. Life, like sport, is not fair. But my friends we have a choice: we can let anger consume us and blame our unfairness for why we never achieved our dreams, OR we can move on from these unfair acts and chase our dreams again. The choice is ours.

This will not be the last time I post about Rebecca. She’s had many inspirational achievements that I hope to bring to life in this blog, but the moment when her 1999 World Championship silver medal was taken away from her, was in my opinion, one of her greatest victories because she moved on and didn’t let it affect her desire and ability to continue to achieve greatness.

I would like to end this post with a quote given to me by one of my most favorite people in the world, Harriott Lumpkin Parker who just last year was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer at 34 years of age – life at its most unfairness. And yet when I saw her in the thick of her cancer treatment, she was smiling every minute of the day.
“Be happy, my friend for you do have a choice. You can sit and complain or stand and rejoice. You can waste your life with judgment and blame, or learn to forgive and understand we’re the same. For all of us feel fear and everyone knows pain, product of experience, no one’s to blame. So let go of your past your hurts and fears. Cherish each moment and love life while you are here.” unknown
 It is so hard to move on when life is unfair. It is so easy to sit and cry and give up. But do me a favor, after you have had a good cry, stand up and move on and continue to chase all the dreams in your heart. Easier said than done, I know, but 100% worth doing.

To view Sarah's middle grade fiction book click here: Paperback and Kindle 

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