Sunday, October 25, 2009
You Are Your Own Final Measure
When the time comes to hang up the racing skis, when my days are no longer driven by the constant pursuit of teasing performance out of talent and desire, when the arc of my career as a professional athlete has passed, I want to be proud that I took the time and seized the opportunity and had a lasting and meaningful impact on a group of America’s youth.
Today this means getting into Mr. Gottschalk's classroom at Miller Elementary in Bend, Oregon. Mentoring's most rewarding part comes in getting to know the kids in class at a personal level. In the classroom, I have a whole new crew of kids at a brand new school I'm getting to know.
In two weeks, having an impact on America's youth means keeping up correspondence with the kids while on the road in Europe as I chase World Cup wins and a place on the U.S Olympic Team. This spring this means getting back to my roots in Mr. Peck's 5th grade classroom, in my old hometown of Leavenworth, Washington.
I want to watch kids from Bend and Leavenworth to go beyond labels and excuses, to follow their passions and discover what they can do. To help instill the belief that every one of them has the ability to handle whatever the future throws at them, is what I'm after.
I want more kids to steal a pearl of wisdom from Joseph Campbell and follow their bliss. I want them to know that when you do this, you put yourself on a path that has been there cutting through the deep, dark woods all the time, just waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the very one you are living. I’ve had this feeling. I’ve lost this feeling. And also found it again.
When I get angry, discouraged or indifferent it helps to remember that I choose this path and their will be trials and tribulations along the way. Just as there were for Jesse Owens or Odysseus. This is all part of the adventure. Just days ago I ran into Dan Jansen, a titan of the speed skating's yesteryear. I remember the '88 Olympics, watching Dan slam into the boards, hands overhead, the look of abject loss vividly burned into my memory. I also remember watching the Olympic 1,000 meter final from Lillehammer, when Dan won his Olympic Gold. We chatted for a minute, he signed two pieces of paper, one to Mr.Peck's 5th grade class, another to Miller Elementary. He left me with these words, "Remember, You are the only one who knows if you have given everything you had. You are your own final measure." Words to live by. Thanks for the memories Dan, both young and old.
I want to do more than talk about change. I'm getting my hands dirty. I love the wide-eyed excitement I see in the classroom. I can't wait to get back in there Monday. The students of Miller Elementary are fortunate to have teachers like Mr. Gottschalk, just as I was fortunate to have a teacher like Mr. Peck.
I want to run in the mountains with my young runners this spring. I want to throw heavy objects with my throwers after the ski season. I want to pick wildflowers with fifth graders just as I want to pick the perfect word to describe the scene of my time with America’s youth.
I remember a coach telling me, "If you want it that badly, you'll find a way." I want to be that person in the community others look up to and say, “Torin wanted it that badly. He found a way. You can, too,” just as I want to be the coach that instills this same belief in his young troops. For this, as in all things in life, I will be the only one who really knows if I gave everything I had. I will be my final measure. I intend to succeed.