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Written by Alexandra

Olympic Fever

Last week all I could think of was London…

London. London. London.

As I was boarding my plane to Heathrow on Monday night it hit me that I really had no idea what to expect. I’ve competed at an Olympics, been an Olympic spectator and even volunteered in Vancouver for the Winter Games – but never like this. Never so close to the athletes without being one of them.

This realization dawned on me as I flew over the Atlantic on my way to the land of British punk rock, double-decker buses and the Beatles. Would I be sad? Envious? Nostalgic? Maybe a little bit of everything.

When I stepped off the plane and walked out into the arrivals terminal I left behind all those worries. From my very first glance at the row upon row of Olympic volunteers in their purple shirts I knew this is exactly where I was supposed to be. I couldn’t be more fortunate to be standing where I am in the middle of Olympic fever supporting our team the best way I can.

Today I was honoured to be present at Team Canada’s Welcome Ceremony and Flag Raising in the Athlete Village. As I looked around me I saw the faces of first time Olympians intertwined with experienced vets – proudly singing our Anthem getting ready for the biggest moment of their lives. It gave me the chills. I wish I could explain better in words what it means to be a very small part of someone’s Olympic journey – but there are none that would do it justice.

Adorning the walls of our Canadian hallways are quotes and messages of strength and inspiration. It makes me want to do better. Be better.

“Happiness is not something ready made, it comes from your own actions”

Go Canada

Patience

 One of those qualities I have never really given enough credit to in people. I mean, coming from an incredibly impatient person who thinks it’s excruciating to wait for something I want - I never think twice about it. Then every time by body crashes because I pretend it can handle working out 2x a day and working full time or I have a ‘whatever age I am’ crisis because I can’t achieve everything I want while attempting to do it all or even when I think that 4 hours of sleep is enough to accomplish everything I want to - I stop and think about being patient.

Good things come to those who wait? Well, I don’t really buy that – good things come to those who make it happen, but it doesn’t happen over night (this is the part I tend to forget). I can get so caught up in the deadlines I set for myself, the timing I think my life should be running on, that if I don’t meet those milestones I am my harshest critic. And it gets ugly…

A very good friend of mine keeps telling me to ditch those deadlines, those imaginary road blocks I’ve put in my way only to make my journey that much harder. Always have a dream and goals for yourself, but remember that life is unpredictable. What you may think your path will be could end up being completely opposite.

As long as I’m being challenged and I’m still learning, I need to learn to be patient. Relationships aren’t built over night, careers aren’t made with the snap of your fingers and having a lifestyle you want may take you a little longer than planned. But ask yourself what makes you happy now – now being the key word.

We get so caught up planning the future we can forget about living.

So go out and live this week and I’ll try and take my own advice…

Denim Day

My family and friends all know that they can easily get under my skin by doing any one of these 3 things…

  1. Anything that undermines women in the workplace or in the gym
  2. Making fun of my weird (I think they’re cute) quirks
  3. Criticizing my driving skills

But yesterday I realized that as worked up as I can get, these honestly insignificant things are nothing compared to the real injustices that happen all around the world every single day. I came across an article this morning called Denim Day as I was getting ready for work – slightly intrigued and just wanting to justify wearing jeans to the office, I clicked open the link and skimmed through.

Denim Day ended up affecting me much more than I could have ever imagined. It’s a Sexual Assault Awareness campaign started by a woman in the US, who was deeply affected by the events of the Italian Supreme Court. In 1999, the court overturned the ruling on a convicted rapist on the justification that the young women was wearing very tight jeans. The fact that she had to help him pull them off before he raped her made it a ‘consensual’ act. This turned my stomach as I read it and continues to turn my stomach as I write it.

Every two and a half minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.

One in six American women have been victim of rape.

I pulled on my jeans today and yes they were tight. I pulled on my jeans today and looked at myself in the mirror, was I asking for it? Was I asking for unwanted sexual attention?

When could women feeling comfortable with their bodies and sexuality ever make rape ok?

I hope you wore denim today for all the men and women out there who have been sexually assaulted.

There is no excuse and never an invitation for rape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What it takes to get to the Games

Last night I was the keynote speaker for a University of Toronto Symposium, the third in a series of events that are open to the public. The main theme last night was talking about the Olympic Games and more specifically what it takes as an athlete to get there. I was honoured to not only be speaking alongside sport scientists, professors and sport psychologists, but also to stand up on that stage proudly as a UofT Alumni.

When I looked out into the crowd there was a mixture of faculty, students, athletes, coaches and the general public – all ages, races and attitudes. I took a second and soaked it all in, which I so rarely do these days. I speak at events all the time, but sometimes forget how special it is to be a part of them. Here I was at my University, in a theatre I used to have International Relations 101 in, and they had opened the doors to anyone who wanted to be there. It was an evening to share knowledge, be controversial, ask questions and simply start a discussion that compels people to think.

I looked back on my career in a more critical way than I have done before and re-lived the mental and physical preparation that brought me to my first and last Olympic Games. That’s a part of the story that sometimes gets glossed over or sugar coated as you try and squeeze your career into a 15 minute talk, but this time I took a closer look.

I was and still am one of the most stubborn people I know because when I want something I go out and get it, no matter what or who is in my way. Not always a good thing, but at the end of the day you have to want it so badly you would be willing to fall on your face in front of millions of people on tv – to disappoint a nation and face heart crushing defeat in front of an audience that may never ever forget it. You have to be willing to face criticism that will come at you from all angles and injuries that affect your goals and your preparation. It’s a rocky ride, but you have to be able to handle it.

So when you think about ‘what it takes to get to the Games’ there’s no one answer or one way, but in my mind all you have to be is fearless.

Lost too soon…

Bringing life into this world always seems to amaze me. If you’re ever in the hospital and you happen to pass by the newborns or see a young family leave with their baby for the first time, even if you’re not a baby kind of person you have to admit it’s pretty incredible. All of a sudden your life completely changes. You put yourself second for once and selflessly re-prioritize everything to raise this little thing that will soon become a self sufficient (hopefully) adult one day. It’s this wild journey of parenting – that kind of parental love that you’ll never understand until you have a child of your own.

But life can be twisted and harsh. It challenges us and makes us experience pain, loss and tragedy. It shocks us sometimes and isn’t fair. No young couple at home with their baby for the first time would ever think of losing them. No parent should ever have to bury their own child – ever. The order seems reversed, it just seems wrong to me.

When I heard that a beautiful, talented young woman who had come into my life a few years ago lost her battle to cancer yesterday I didn’t want to believe it. I couldn’t believe it. She was 29 years old – just a few years older than me, the same age as my sister. She had so much to live for, so much to do. I grappled for the right words to pay my respects to her family, but nothing can make this better. She inspired me to be a better person, even though I didn’t know her long, her spirit and energy was magnetic. She gave so much of herself to others – something we could all do a lot more of.

Her younger sister posted a letter to her after she had passed for all of us to see. It broke my heart to know that she flew in to Ottawa to see her sister in the hospital and never got a chance to say goodbye to her. Cristina had passed away before she got there. In my heart I know that Cristina knew she was there with her. Life doesn’t make sense a lot of the time and this may never make any sense to any of us.

The tears that I’ve cried for her and her family seem to be endless today.

Thank you Cristina for everything you did for the people around you.

You will always continue to live on in our hearts and our minds.

Rest in peace…

Mexico City

There are only a few places in this world that when you touch down on the tarmac you know exactly where you are. But every time I come to Mexico, I can almost taste its flavor before I even step foot off the plane. I was still completely blown away by flying into Mexico City for the first time though, as I saw this bursting metropolis spilling over on to lush green parks and natural urban planning. If you’ve never been here, it’s quite something. I pulled back the shades in my hotel room and from the 30th floor you feel as though you’re standing in the middle of a forest looking at the city far off in the distance.

Reflections of the thousands of apartments and buildings, almost on top of each other, glisten off the strong tall towers that seem to appear out of nowhere. The hustle and bustle of the city hits you right in the face though while you hold on for dear life as your driver weaves in and out of heavy traffic. A horn is blaring constantly wherever you seem to be and people criss cross through the streets as if it was their own playground. I couldn’t let myself shut my eyes even if I wanted to.  I had to take it all in as we drove the standard 45 minutes to the hotel from the airport.

 For anyone who has spent some time in Mexico, no matter where you are or where you’re going it seems to always be around 45 minutes. No word of a lie – it’s kind of incredible.

I digress, in a matter of minutes once you have arrived at your hotel you’re pulled from the hectic scene on the street to a serene, peaceful hotel room. The door shut behind me and I breathed a little sigh of relief – quiet. I flopped down on the big luscious bed and smiled – welcome to Mexico City.

Overly reflective?

As I waited for my hopelessly lost friend to make it to my favourite sushi spot on Bloor last night, in the heart of the Annex, I kept noticing a few eyes on me. Cute couples thinking I’m waiting for my boyfriend who was really ridiculously late, a table of girls feeling bad for me for getting stood up maybe…even the waiters bringing me extra water and tea just in case I started bawling my eyes out right there all over my chopsticks. It’s kind of funny to sit alone and see how others perceive you. Automatically complete strangers threw their pity at me, secretly thankful they weren’t the one sitting alone. Breathing a sigh of relief and smiling extra harder at that person in front of them, showing the world that yes they did have friends.

Why is it that so many people are scared of just being on their own? I was completely fine sitting there. I was people watching (one of my favourite activities) and enjoying some tea. I didn’t need a book or my phone, I was just content with being with myself. I’m realizing the number of people able to just sit and relax in their own thoughts are few and far between. I challenge you all to take yourself out to dinner one night….catch a movie even. Don’t be walking around with your head down, playing with your smart phone as if it had the answer to world peace on it. Turn it off even (woah maybe I’ve gone too far). For you newbies, maybe putting it in your bag on silent is enough. Feel the temptation of taking it out and rise above it (you can do it).

Now my friends will be rolling their eyes at this because I am one of those horrible iPhone obsessed people. I mean, my twitter stopped working for less than an hour and I was having a seriously hard time with it. But I realized it wasn’t necessarily the fact that my twitter was down and god for bid I couldn’t tweet! It was the very fact that something I had spent a lot of money on, covet even, wasn’t working the way it should work. It’s a type A personality thing I think – I just want things to work the way they are supposed to work. Is that so hard to ask for? It actually bothered me that it wasn’t doing it’s job (some would call this a control freak).

So the morale of the story is that even though I want to control everything in my life – you can’t control people who are late (sorry Jacob) or technology because we all know it has a mind of it’s own…and that’s ok. It forces us to be on our own, to reflect on our lives or even how we’re really feeling. I feel as though we run around every day like crazy people, rushing from thing to thing and not really soaking in everything around us. How many of us smile on the way to work or witness a small act of kindness. It’s cliched, but we have to stop and smell the roses sometimes.

Turn off the phone. Breathe. Take yourself out for a meal. Breathe.

And just be.

 

Gluten Free?

Excuse me? I looked at my doctor like what had just come out of her mouth was complete jibberish. There is no way I had heard that correctly – gluten free? Yes. This fateful day that I knew was coming is finally here. I have been battling my body the last two years, desperately hoping that it would magically balance itself out after my athlete career was far behind me. Well, let me tell you something. Wishing and hoping doesn’t always work – no matter how badly we want it to. The amount of stress I have placed on my shoulders combined with a lack of sleep, horrible eating patterns, yo yo dieting (yup I said it) and weak immune system has left my body so out of whack it doesn’t know what to do any more.

So you heard me correctly, I’m gluten free now. A lifestyle that I’ve once mocked (just a little bit) as being a trend or a new diet has now become my life. Karma baby.

For those of you who know me, I don’t cook. I don’t like to cook. I am basically afraid of my kitchen and any appliances that can do any of the following: catch on fire, cut my fingers off and/or burn me. So when someone tells you you’re going to have a really hard time finding anything packaged or ‘on-the-go’ a little part of me died inside. To many people I may seem like I’m overreacting, but I’m really sorry – I love food. I’m Italian – we eat complex carbohydrates and you’re taking away my pasta? This is going to get ugly.

To be honest, I have been ‘gluten and dairy free’ for not even a week now and already feel so much better. There may be some logic to this madness.

Wish me luck and stay tuned for my adventures as I tackle this lifestyle shift (insert sharp intake of breathe)…

 

Kyle Miller.

Let me tell you a little something about this guy I know Kyle Miller. A few years ago, I was just coming into my own, realizing as an elite athlete I had the power to raise my voice and to make it be heard. I went to my first AthletesCAN (the Association of Canadian National Team Athletes) Forum in British Columbia and was completely overwhelmed. There were so many amazing advocates, strong voices, dedicated people…I didn’t know how I would fit in. 

Sitting at my assigned table with my group I’d be clinging to all weekend – I met Kyle. He was this charming, world champion lacrosse player and I could tell he was going to be a great person to not only learn from, but befriend.

To be honest, he was way more than that. I’ve known Kyle for the last couple of years and am sad to say that we haven’t kept in touch as much as we should have this last little while. People get busy, grow up, move on, but we should have made time for each other. He’s the kind of guy that can make you laugh for hours – he’s an amazing uncle, teammate, athlete and friend who has accomplished so much in his life already. Kyle is probably the best motivational speaker I’ve heard and anyone who has had the opportunity to hear his story is extremely lucky. That kind of a genuine person – that kind of inspiration is really hard to find.

I recently found out that he’s battling something that most of us will never battle. Struggling with something attacking his body in a way that you can’t control. Now in an act of bravery and strength he has started documenting his journey down this extremely rocky path. Something not too many people would be willing and open to do.

I urge you all to go to his website and give him your support. Send him your positive thoughts, send him your prayers. If anyone can beat this, Kyle can. I truly believe that.

www.kylemiller35.com

 

Quarter Life Crisis

To be honest, this picture sums up exactly how I was feeling a few weeks ago when I remembered that my birthday was fast approaching. Long gone are the days where I loved being a January baby and getting my driver’s license before all my friends or finally being legal drinking age (regardless if I still looked 16 at the time). Everyone always told me it would get worse as we all got older…the first to turn 30….the first to turn 40….the first to turn (I can barely say it) 50. You get the idea.

So here I am at a big milestone birthday today. The big 2-5. In all fairness, I have been 25 for two weeks now and still lie about my age…force of habit….but that’s besides the point. The point is, I didn’t think it would really change my life. I mean, birthdays always come and go and you don’t really feel any older until it hits you that you’ve just graduated or you got a promotion or even bought your first piece of real estate. There are always moments where all of a sudden you feel grown up, like it happened over night, but it rarely occurs on your birthday.

Well, this year my 25th was definitely an exception to this little rule of mine. In the two weeks preceding and two weeks after my big b-day my life drastically changed. My priorities shifted, friendships and relationships became clearer, I set foot in a naturopath’s office (which I’ve been saying I’ll do for years) and started making decisions about my future that I had only contemplated before.

It’s a scary time right now for me – scary, but exciting. For every flash of panic when you think maybe you should just play it safe, there are so many exhilarating moments where you take a stand for yourself and you know what? It feels really good. Life is about living – taking risks, knowing your worth and trusting your gut. If my 25th brought anything to me, it brought me a new lease on life. It sounds stupid, but it’s true. Make fun all you want, but I’m getting my (pardon my french) s#&t together for real this time.

And believe me, I’m terrified. I guess I’m a grown up now huh?

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