All the science and business majors in my life probably roll their eyes back into their heads when they hear what homework assignment I am working on at the moment: Oh, nothing, just writing my autobiography. They shake their heads before moving on to whatever equation or model or chemical bond they are studying, leaving me to click away at the keyboard on my laptop. But let me ask you this: you try writing a five page essay on your values, or your parents, or a childhood memory, and let me know how it goes. Sometimes, writing about your life is one of the hardest things you can do.
Last week I brought a few drafts of my current essays into my professor’s office hours. Fred Robinson has to be one of the most passionate teachers I know, remembering each of his student’s individual stories and details that make them unique. I sat down in a comfy armchair in his office. Natural light and a cool breeze poured through the open window, easing my anxieties. I didn’t take out my notebook, we didn’t crack a textbook. We talked. I told him about my family, my friends, my high school. I told him about growing up sheltered from the real world by a school parking lot filled with fancy cars and white students and a heavy stereotype. I told him about the way the I knew where everything was in relation to mountains in the west.
“So I am sensing that you are a person of comfort. You enjoy the comfort of home and the comfort of the bubbles that surround you both in high school and at USD. This is not a bad thing, but you must draw up the discomfort. Write about that. Your life doesn’t have to be riddled with death and destruction for it to be interesting.” We began to delve into what I thought were the mundane details of my life, searching for some mystery to uncover. It didn’t take long. Fred has a way of drawing our secrets and our hidden selves out of whatever cocoon we have wrapped them away in- we trust him, we trust each other, and he knows that. The stories that have come out of that class are unlike any others that I have heard- they are true, and they are deep. As Fred says after someone shares their work, “Writing that must have really cost you something.”
Inspired about what my fellow classmates were sharing about in their “Values” essay and charged up on my talk with Fred, I took a long, hard look at what I had previously written as my “Values” essay and threw it in the trash can. Furiously I typed away, a secret story pouring out of the brokenness in my soul I had so carefully concealed. It is a story that nobody knows, and if they ever did, they grasped only a sliver. So here I stand, clutching five neatly typed pages. Tonight, I am ready to read my story.
This post is dedicated to the birthday boy, my most dedicated reader and encourager, my grandpa Martin. He is lovingly known by our family as Papa, or simply, Pops. Today we celebrate the life of a man who is truly unique and one-of-a-kind.
I would like to attribute much of my writing abilities to my Pops and his particular way with words. His emails are riddled with vocabulary I must quick look up in a dictionary, sprinkled with witty quips and one liners that leave me in a fit of laughter. Well-spoken and supremely bright is Papa, never failing to educate me in the ways of the world- he has given me the history tour of the area he resides in, just down the street from where my mom grew up, and he sneaks in random facts about whatever is relevant at the time throughout our walks and drives.
Age has yet to slow my Pops, who still swings his club and walks the golf course several times a week. His brain is as sharp as ever, and he still works a bit in the medical field he practiced during his career. Savvy with technology, he emails with the best of us and has recently written me about a new MacBook Air he is learning to use.
How can I forget his skills in the kitchen? With beef stew and “Chili Billy” among his specialties (Hormel chili on Fritos), I always look forward to a homecooked meal during my visits. My mom did say he recently learned how to make one of my favorites, Spaghetti Pie, so I may have to make the drive north in the near future…
Even though I am far from home while at school, knowing I live closer to Papa makes my life of independence more comfortable. I am so blessed to call him my grandfather and share this special relationship with him. So, Pops, this one’s for you- HAPPY BIRTHDAY old man, you don’t look a day over fifty.
A couple new words to somehow sneak into a composition. Should impress the masses.
Skeevy meaning unpleasant, squalid, or distasteful
Eleemosynary meaning relating to ,or dependent on charity; charitable
Enjoy the journey
The annual Cherry Creek High School swim and dive banquet culminates the end of the high school swim season with awards, slide shows, and of course, tear jerking speeches by the captains and coaches. I attended this year to support my sister Sydney, who finished her second year on the team. It was a particularly special night for me as well, as I said my final farewells to a team that has taught me so much and played such a large role in creating the person and leader I am today. My oh my, how time flies. I swear it was yesterday that Katie, Morgan and I fought back tears on stage during our captain’s speeches, sang along to Vitamin C’s “Graduation” during the senior slide show, and applauded our amazing team of swimmers. The girls who were freshman when I was a captain my senior year were now up there giving their own speeches, rattling on about college decisions, and saying their own goodbyes as they prepared to graduate high school.
Sitting among tables of parents and other supportive family members, I couldn’t help but swell with pride at just how great the Creek swim and dive program is. These teams literally become family during the vulnerable high school years- the coaches push you beyond your limits, catapulting you higher towards your goals, and your team is always there full of support, laughter, and love. I don’t think I have ever worked harder in my life than I did during those two hour swim practices and those grueling five minute 500-yard-freestyle races. There really is nothing that compares to the sport of swimming- screaming muscles in underwater silence, contrasted with the eruption of cheering from your teammates, coaches, and family from either end of your lane. Even when you fail to meet your goals, their unfailing love reminds you why you swam in the first place and how hard you did try. At the end of the day, it is those special relationships that matter.
My four years on the Creek Bruins swim and dive team taught me some very valuable lessons. Every day I was surrounded by the very definitions of determination, encouragement, tough love, inspiration, and teamwork. Some of the hardest working ladies I know swam right along side me. Of course, we learned from the best: Coach Eric is truly one of a kind. Papa Eric always knew what to say when, and he led with such passion and love for not only the sport, but our team. He is living proof that coaches don’t need to beat down their players to succeed; they need only build them up, not only in to great swimmers, but in to great people. How blessed I am to have been a member of this incredible team. I wish all the seniors (once my little babies!) the very best as they head to college next year. I am so happy I got to see them tonight and so proud of how far they have all come. And to all those taking over the team, the responsibility of the Creek legacy lies on your shoulders. Do us proud. Cherry what? CHERRY CREEK! GO BRUINS!