The truth comes out. I won’t lie. I won’t even try. I wanted to win the gold medal.
I craved the shine and sheen of the medal to blind me full of glory, applause, and confirmation that all my hard work and efforts would announce loud and clear to all, everyone, and, most of all, myself that I was a “winner.” After two months of training to dive and backstroke and a lifetime of always being a non-athlete that stumbled over my feet and was in modified gym classes, I believed that this 2016 Transplant Games of America would be the time that I was given the ‘gold medalist’ title.
Well, I did not win the gold medal. I won much more.
The truth is that I’ve never been an athlete. I’m not a sports fan by any means. I’ve never understood the gusto and competitive sides and even beasts that come out in a sports game. Throughout my life I’ve struggled with running, jumping, sprinting, hopping, skipping, and even swimming and walking. I’ve never won any symbolic “winner” rather than “loser” item—a trophy, medal, or even a ribbon.
I’ve always been last. I’ve always stood on the sidelines or sat on the bleachers, watching in wide-eyed awe at the gift of movement and motion from others that were and are stronger, taller, and faster.
The one thing I can do and still do to this day is this: I’ll be your best and loudest cheerleader full of exuberance, exhilaration, and excitement.
However, let me tell you how loud life can get. There does come a point that sitting down in a slump is not an option and standing up tall is the only option. This point happens when life starts talking—loudly. Life will loudly intervene for an end to waiting, wanting, and wishing and a start doing, playing, and acting. Life screams when the possibility of death occurs and when struggling and fighting begins in your very own ‘race.’ When has life screamed and got loud for you to stand and not sit? To act and not say? To play and not just wish away?
After competing in my third Transplant Games of America, I’m learning that the truest of athletes and winners is not someone who plays the logistics and rules of the game with the single view to win the gold medal, but someone who has passion, motivation, sportsmanship, and is about ‘we’ over ‘me.’ Anyone can play the game, but how many can persevere and persist in the game when are at the very end of the rope, trying the best in worst of circumstances, slower than everyone else, and fighting to make it to the finish line?
I gained more gold than I have in this Transplant Games of America than I have in one single medal. I dove for the first time in a 50 free. I jumped in 16 feet of water in the company and companionship of fellow transplant recipients. I did a surprise 50 back stroke in a team relay medley where we won a bronze medal. My teammate and I ended up winning a gold medal in cornhole all because she stuck by me when I didn’t even have the energy to throw the dang bean bag anymore. I experienced the power of friendship when my very good friend who could not swim anymore sat and stayed with me to complete my 50 free and hug me so hard that I started crying just thinking of my organ donor families. I reunited with one of my favorite families who had lost their heart transplant recipient son and fellow swimmer friend of mine. I hugged organ donor families as hard as I could constantly thinking of mine and just hoping peace and love for them wherever they are and whomever they are. I hope to make them proud just by me living and continuing to be the best version of myself in whatever I do in this ‘race’ and journey of life. All these single valued and priceless moments with every single person are precious shiny and sheen gold.
My ‘gold’ is ‘life.' Simply being alive, to live, to move, have fun, savor, and have fun because of both of my organ donor families. I’ve never been and still do not consider myself a competitive person against others because the greatest competitor, the greatest enemy, and the greatest race I am in day after day is with me, myself, and I. And, isn’t that like all of us that we are in our very own ‘race’ everyday to fight, live, and just keep on going and moving and treasuring and valuing the beauty and the joy in the little things that mean the most? What have you ‘won’ and what are you still winning in life? Do you consider yourself an athlete? What actually makes an athlete? What actually makes a ‘winner’? What is your ‘gold’?
I did not win the gold medal. I am still winning so much more ‘gold.’ For all this and more, I am blessed and grateful.
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,