I wrote this in 2010, but the Olympic theme is timely for this week, so I thought I’d share it now.
How will your life be different four years from now?
It was 1992. I was 13, and the summer Olympics were in Barcelona, Spain. My favorite Olympic event was then (and still is) gymnastics, and since I was at church camp during that portion of Olympic coverage, my grandma sent me letters, recapping the exciting events. A few months earlier, we had watched much of the 1992 winter Olympics together as well as several gymnastics competitions leading up to the summer Olympics, and she knew that while I’d be having a blast at camp, I was secretly a little bummed out inside that I’d have to miss my favorite part of the Olympics.
I had her letter read within the first five minutes of rest hour. I lay on my bunk, disappointed because our favorite gymnast, Kim Zmeskal, hadn’t performed well, but as I read on, I discovered that another U.S. athlete, Shannon Miller, did better than anyone had predicted and had a chance at the all-around competition.
I still have the letters, stored away in my “camp memories” box. In one, Grandma’s handwriting recorded the scores of all the US gymnasts and their opponents, and she wrote, “Sorry we won’t be able to watch them together and bite our nails and get mad at the judges for their prejudices like we did with figure skating. Grandpa doesn’t get too enthusiastic about these things.”
I returned home from camp, and the next time we traveled to my grandparents’ house in Lower Michigan, Grandma and I watched the gymnastics she had taped so I wouldn’t completely miss it, even though we both knew what was going to happen. We sat around her kitchen table afterwards, drinking hot chocolate (the kind made only as a grandmother can—with way more chocolate mix than your mom will ever put in), talking about the gymnasts and other events. I thanked Grandma for sending me the updates at camp.
She smiled and promised, “I’ll send them to you in four years if you’re at camp again.”
That got me thinking. Four years. It seemed so far away. I would be just about to start my senior year of high school then. To a thirteen-year-old, thinking that far into the future is almost unfathomable. I wondered what life would be like then. How would I do in school? What college would I be thinking about attending? Would I have a boyfriend? That was the first time I wondered about my life based on a four-year block of time.
1996. The summer Olympics took place in Atlanta, and I was indeed at camp—this time as a counselor instead of a camper. The week I spent at camp was later in the summer than when I was a camper, so I actually got to watch the gymnastics at home (while on the phone with my grandma at the same time). I missed some of the later events, though, so Grandma once again sent me some of the final event results at camp. I did get to watch some Olympic coverage at camp in Lakefront cabin (one of the staff cabins) which is one of my favorite memories of being a teenager at camp.
This time, the future didn’t seem so abstract. Where would I be in four years? I would be a high school graduate, almost through with college. I remember telling Grandma, “Maybe I’ll even be married,” even though with no boyfriend possibilities on the horizon, that seemed a far stretch.
The summer Olympics of 2000 were more like the fall Olympics for us in the U.S. Because they were held in Sydney, Australia, the games were in September instead of July or August, since the seasons are opposite there. I was, once again, at camp during some of the events, as our first ever fall retreat was during the Olympics. This time, it wasn’t Lakefront cabin but a television in Grace Hall where we gathered to cheer on the USA.
Grandma didn’t send updates that year. For one, the retreat was only a weekend event, so it was virtually impossible to get mail during it. Also, Grandma had passed away the previous December. I remember standing there watching, surrounded by my camp friends and my newlywed husband (yes, I had gotten married in the four-year time span, so the wishful thinking had come true), just wishing I could call her up and complain about the judges or something, even though what I remember watching at camp was rowing, which doesn’t have judges.
Without Grandma to play the “where will you be in four years?” game, I played it with my husband. “The next time we watch the summer Olympics, we might have kids,” I said. It was a scary but exciting thought. I also knew that I’d have graduated from college, and my goal was to write a book by then.
2004 rolled around, and no, we did not have kids yet while we watched the athletes compete in Athens (which meant we could sleep in after staying up late to watch the last event of the night). I had graduated from college and written and published two books, though, Buddy Check and Super Counselors. That part of my prediction had come true.
Less than two years later found me enormous, eight months pregnant with my daughter. It was the winter Olympics of 2006 this time which I watched at home, mainly with my friend Kris. I told her about the four-years-from-now game and said, “I’ll have a kid by the next winter Olympics.”
“You might even have two,” Kris joked.
Well, here it is. Four years later, and the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics are less than 48 hours away. I have two wonderful kids. Now the “where will you be in four years?” game has changed for me. It’s less about my milestones and life changes and more about theirs. I just realized that I’ll have one preschooler and one second grader the next time we watch people slalom down the slopes in 2014, wherever that may be.
So here’s the question: where will you be during the next Olympics? What do you know you will accomplish? What are your hopes, dreams, and goals? I hope you make them!