Could I Have Been An Olympian?

As everyone knows, the Olympics are in full swing. Even though I’m a fan of the games, by next week the Olympic theme song that is played throughout the day will likely drive me mad. Two weeks straight of the same ten second piece of orchestrated music at the start, end and every commercial break in between will cause my ear drums to reach for the remote and hit mute. Maybe it’s because I have the games on while I go about my business each day.

Regardless, I love the sense of pride and the dedication from Olympians. There is always a heart wrenching story or significant feat embodied in the spirit of the games.

I grew up as a fish. My parents could not get me out of our pool to eat and my summer attire consisted only of a bathing suit. I dreamed of being a real swimmer with a swim cap and goggles and eventually joined a swim team where I did fairly well. During the summer of ’92, my bathing suit transitioned into a gymnastics leotard and my poor Great-grandmother suffered the “look at me, I’m a gymnast” phase, cartwheels in her rowhome and all, when I stayed at her house during one week of the Olympics that year. Poor Grandmom. She never dared to crush my dreams either, though quite frankly, I don’t remember her appeasing me and saying I’d make it either.

Toddler Mae fashioning summer attire for the rest of her childhood.

I don’t remember really ever trying very hard to be anything I dreamed of. I was the queen of one season sports or clubs. I’m probably not in the memories of any of my teammates or fellow members because I dashed in and out, never leaving behind anything substantial and never hanging in to form real memories. Until recently, I thought it was me. I thought maybe I’m just a flake and like so many things in life, I just never knew was it was to give my all and keep persevering. But it’s not true. I’ve come to only understand recently that my Mom discouraged me. But before a judging finger is pointed her way, I understand and I do not place blame. My Mom had severe anxiety and taking me to events was very trying on her. I don’t believe she held me back from anything that I carried full potential in, but I guess we won’t know. I don’t think I would have been an Olympic swimmer, but I wonder if I had stuck with something now and then, if I could have had a different mindset in life. Maybe I could have fought harder.

Now that I’m an adult, I can’t base the rest of my life on the fact that I played one season of softball or did one year of Girl Scouts. I am in control of my own fate and if I don’t try or stick with things, it’s my fault. It’s time to learn a new mindset.  And maybe because I’m not an athlete, that doesn’t set the baseline for other things. I’ve stuck with the things that really do matter in life; I’m not a complete failure.

I didn’t even mean for this post to go in this direction. It was supposed to be a lighthearted joke about my Gram who used to say constantly, “If my parents had had money to get me singing lessons, I could have been a famous singer”. Gram had not a lick of a voice or an ear for keys, but it was something she dreamed about as she grew up in a family of fourteen children.  I found myself saying to my husband the other night, “If I had been able to stick with swimming, I could have been an Olympic athlete”. We both knew it was wrong, but we laughed anyway.

If you think about it, it is funny how at the still-young age of 29, it is so easy to see dreams that are too late to happen in the faces of young Olympians. I’d like to think that I’ll encourage my future and non-existent children to follow their dreams young and be able to support them along the way, and without trying to make them accomplish mine.

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3 thoughts on “Could I Have Been An Olympian?

  1. I remember being a little kid and thinking I could do anything athletic, that nothing could stop me. I grew out of that by my teens, thanks to cautions by my mom, exhortations to be more ladylike (I grew up in South Texas) and very little encouragement for any physical OR intellectual accomplishments. I can only remember being praised for those times I looked “pretty.” I think this is probably the norm, and girls of my generation who were supported in their dreams and ambitions are in the extreme minority. A great loss to the world.

    • Wow, an extreme loss. It seems that you’ve not been inhibited by the lack of support though, at least intellectually. I can’t speak for your athletic achievements 🙂

      I’m glad the norm has changed though, now they are just expected to be pretty AND win!

  2. 1. Praise the Lord for the BBC for having no commercials.
    2. All of us can be Olympians – or at least go far – if we cop a break, grasp the opportunity and work like mad. We all have the ability but few get the break or make the most of it.

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