Advice for my Younger Self

As part of my athlete community giveback, I volunteer as an ambassador for the Canadian Fast and Female program. This spring, when I helped lead an F&F event, one of the girls asked a really great question to the panel of athletes I was a part of. It was the same question Oiselle founder and athlete Lauren Fleshman has asked, “What advice would you tell your younger self?”

I think everyone on the panel took a deep breath and took a moment to prepare the honest piece of advice they would share. As it turned out, we went down the line and I was grateful to find myself near the end of said line. Mainly because I was able to hear their aha! moments, but secondly it also gave me time to think and consider my own younger-self advice. After hearing the panel’s personal advice to: enjoy the every day moments, embrace setbacks, and know you’re good enough, I realized it was my turn. I suddenly felt nervous to be vulnerable in front of a gym full of girls. I took a deep breath and the answer I gave to the gymnasium that day was, “Dear ten-year-old Adrea, the advice I have for you is be competitive, not comparative.”

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Photo Credit: Josh Schaeffer, 2019 at Saskatoon Fast and Female Event @GetmyPhotos

What does this mean?

In an individual sport like athletics, it is easy to compare times, rankings, number of wins, races, etc. But that isn’t what winning is. When I first joined my training group in Victoria, I was very privileged to have an amazing training partner who taught me the difference between being comparative and competitive. We learned very early on being comparative was not going to make either of us better. We figured out the respect and benefit of being competitive instead. We are able to see ourselves as equal, we, us, being our best, together. When we were shared a race start line, we were excited and fully motivated because the obvious goal was we are taking #1 and #2 spots. Between us, whoever was #1 in that race, great you ran well! Whoever was #2, equally great. #2 means you have the best training partner possible. It meant we did well. We did our best that day, and every day leading up to the race.

This genuine respect for the other person meant there was no room for comparing. Sure, some days she ran faster times, and other days I ran faster times. We didn’t get mad and wallow as a loser because of it. Nor did we look at the times and start creating comparative narratives where we rationalize who is better. Creating a hierarchy was not conducive to achieving our goals. Instead we became competitive. Which meant we also became supportive, were kind, laughed, cried, travelled, ran, and formed genuine friendship. The days I dragged behind, her lead forced me to stay competitive and do the best I could that day. The day’s I felt great, I knew I could return the favour and pull her through a tough session. But in order for it to work we both trusted the other person to show up and be competitive. Together. Empowering each other to be our best both on and off the track.

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PC: Rob Denault, Film 2017 Casey, Maddy, Adrea at a PISE Track practice

 

As I shared this lesson learned, I was lucky enough to have her sitting a few chairs down the line on the panel with me. We have always had an unspoken bond, but to give her the recognition she deserves for making me into the athlete I am today was a real privilege. There are many stories and advice I learned both on and off the track with her, but this is by far the most important:

Be Competitive. Not Comparative.

 

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Casey and Adrea enjoying tempo at altitude 7000′ – Flagstaff, AZ

And don’t forget to have fun! 🙂 

 

Much Love, 

Adrea

 

Unconditional Acceptance

In lieu of Remembrance Day, I found myself doing my annual Nov. 11 traditions. Wearing a poppy, watching the Ottawa Ceremony, being silent for the two minutes of 11:11-11:13, walking along the local Memorial Way, and ultimately taking the time to appreciate two luxuries I have at many other people’s expense: Freedom and Peace.

As I was walking along Memorial Way, I found myself contemplating CBC’s WWI stories I had listened to. More specifically the bravery demonstrated by many people before me in the name of a peaceful world. Very shortly, I came to the realization I did not truly understand peace because I could not explain it.

Yes, I have learned the dictionary definitions of peace:

  1. Freedom from disturbance (tranquility), and
  2. A state or period in which there is no war or war is ended

But living in a world where there are still active wars taking place, how have I never asked myself, What makes a place peaceful? What is the foundation of peace? Its essence? How do I live a peaceful life? Do I live a peaceful life? I have seen the pop-culture with advocates for “World Peace” but what does it look like? How would I describe it? How do I implement it? What is the difference between inner-peace and world peace?

The questions were spilling out of me as I continued walking, and then two words came to mind: Unconditional Acceptance.

  1. Unconditional: Not subject to any conditions
  2. Acceptance: The process or fact of being received as good enough, or suitable.

My brain went a step further and combined these two words into one concept: Unconditional Acceptance: Meaning, the process of being received as good enough, without being subject to any conditions. Acceptance without judgement.

This was powerful. Mind blown. I understood this. A peaceful place, in my experience, is a place where any individual is free and welcome to be the truest version of oneself, without any conditions.

I was still walking as the mental fireworks continued. I retrospectively was remembering the first year I moved to Victoria for track. To say I was struggling with my transition in track and life at this point was an understatement, but there was one day in particular where I had a workout on my own and I had all 8 lanes at Centennial Stadium to myself. I had finished my warm up, walked in through the gates, and let our a huge sigh of relief as I stepped foot on the track. For the first time since I had arrived, I was finally in a familiar space. Just me and the track. No pressure, nobody watching, no judgement. Instead of tension, it felt comfortable, welcoming, and it felt like home. I realized this track didn’t care if I could make rent that month or if I missed a patch waxing my legs, or might throw up when I was done my work-out. It was a track! Whatever stress or judgements I felt that day at the track, I realized were 100% my own. Once I chose to let it go and accepted myself, I ran my times with ease, felt relaxed, and for the first time in Victoria, felt like my true self. I was in a place I now know as peaceful; a place of Unconditional Acceptance.

So what was the lesson? How does this help the reader?

In this reflection, I realized this place is always available to me, 24/7. And not only me, but anyone and everyone. Day or night, the track is always there, accepting whatever and whoever chooses to go to it. Further, this magic happens in a gymnasium, pool, court, mat, turf, field, runway, stage, etc. or wherever your sport takes place. Whether it is quiet moment alone, or a roaring stadium at a championship full of people, the stakes are the same. What are you willing to offer and give in that moment? Are you brave enough to take the opportunity to be your best self?

The beauty of it is you have the freedom of choice, of being accepted by yourself, and others, or not to. This is the luxury of sport. Choosing to experience and express gratitude at the opportunity to be you. The moment looms in those seconds before the gun goes off or the timer starts, but once it does, the choice is in your hands. The privilege to make this choice, I owe to living in a free country. For that I find myself extremely grateful.

Much love,

Adrea

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P.S.

Outside of my own thoughts and experiences, I am curious, where do other people feel Unconditional Acceptance? Or other places you feel free to be yourself? I’d love to hear your stories. Comment or send me a note!

#KwoleksSayEyeDo

Speeeeeech!

July 27, 2018.

The day my best friend Darah, married Dave.

They say, “Love at first sight” and to that I say, “I agree.” Your wedding day was absolutely beautiful and when I saw you two together, I fell in love with you both all over again on the spot. I couldn’t take my eyes off you! Head over heels, living proof of the magic and existence of love. I can’t believe it has already been two months, it feels like I was there celebrating with you yesterday!

I love you both so much! When we are grey and old I want you to remember how much love there was on this day. I meant every word I said to you in my speech, and even though I shed some tears, I want you to have it.

My Lesson: Recognizing you two lead by example. If you’re going to love someone, do it whole-heartedly and unconditionally.


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Good evening,

As mentioned, I am Adrea and tonight I am privileged to stand beside this beautiful bride, my best friend Darah, on her wedding day. When I was asked to write this speech, I was excited to have the chance to publicly share with you, how much she means to me. When I started writing, I found I kept on writing, and writing which led me to a major problem: How am I going to fit more than 20 years of friendship and memories into five minutes of speaking?!

Somewhere while I was rewriting, editing, and tearing my speech up, I recognized it was not a moment or event that defined our friendship. Instead I realized what I wanted to share was the same reason we are all here tonight: to celebrate love.

It all began back at Martin’s School of Dance. We were little girls in our first ballet and tap class, learning steps so we could do our group recital. When it was time to start choreography, the first task was lining the girls in our class up by height, short to tall. As the two tallest, we were destined to stand center, and together. And from then on that’s were we stayed, center and together. We attended birthday parties, took on boys who weren’t ready for us, tasted accidentally strong sips of vodka, navigated high school drama, and successfully managed to grow into ladies who might actually be adults now. From curlers and Tanja’s perfect cloth rollers, to ballet exams, and university degrees, somewhere along the way we realized we would always have each other. A Best Friend. A partner in crime. A person to go through life with.

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And I’ll be honest it wasn’t easy. Technically we have never lived in the same city. Secondly, even though Darah will always answer your call- I am known for having forgotten to check my phone for a week, which means I will never be someone’s emergency contact. Other times our busy lives have kept us apart for months on end, but we are always manage to pick up where we left off. Despite our distance, she became and remained my person. My best friend. Keeper of secrets, Giver of advice. Holder of truths. My person. And I couldn’t have asked for anyone better.

And then Darah and Dave fell in love.

While I was finishing my undergrad in Regina, Darah had moved off to Waterloo and was becoming the Optometrist (Not a dentist) she told me she was going to be back when we were 15. During one of our Facetime calls, she was telling me about the new city, school, friends, and this guy named Dave. And then we face timed again, and there was still, this guy, Dave. Then she came home at Christmas, with this guy Dave.

Then I finally met this guy Dave.

It was at a coffee shop in Regina, I strolled in and saw the two of them sitting there before me. Darah always early. Me always five minutes late. As I mentioned, we balance each other. But this time when I arrived, there was something different. She was glowing. She couldn’t stop laughing, I stopped in my tracks and I couldn’t stop smiling! As if on queue, they both stood up, Dave offered me a handshake but I pulled him into a big hug. I knew. He was going to be around for a while.

The next time I saw Dave and Darah, (again in a coffee shop,) we started chatting and began admiring the succulents growing in mugs on the window ledge. And Darah made a comment to Dave, along the lines of: “when we have our own place we’ll have these…” I didn’t say anything, but at that moment, I knew Dave was here for keeps.

We continued to drink our coffee’s and I heard “Optom” talk for the first time. I knew they were speaking English, but I had no idea what it meant. I tuned out their words, and opened my eyes instead and saw they held each other’s gaze just a little too long, finished too many of each other’s sentences, and were both sitting on the edges of their seat, just a little too close to one another. Even though I didn’t understand what they were saying, I knew I was looking at the guy Darah was going to spend her life with.

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Then the years kept passing and Dave kept having a bigger and bigger role in both of our lives. I’m sure we have all seen the movie, Bridesmaids, where I might seem like Kristen Wigg as the “old-childhood friend.” Don’t worry Dave, I promise I won’t throw the cake on the ground! But the difference is when I realized Darah met her person, and had made new friends I didn’t feel jealousy, instead I felt relief. She had someone to be beside her. And it wasn’t just anybody. She had found a kind, intelligent, patient and amazing guy. I heard first-hand all the things he did for her, and saw how gentle he was with her. And not only that, every time after I saw them together, they taught me through example what unconditional love looks like.

I’ve watched them overcome the realization the patio furniture was assembled backwards, administer hard advice on break-ups, the stresses of professional school, or living at the beach next to cottages where the high-school kids came to party over the summer. They thrived in tough times and demonstrated how strong their love really is.

I am certain I have gone over my allocated five minutes, but I would like everyone to take a moment and look around this beautiful room brought together from numerous faucets of love. I hope you realize a beautiful night like tonight is happening- all because Darah and Dave fell in love.

Darah, I’ve always loved you, and I couldn’t be happier for you. I think it is safe to say meeting Dave was the best thing for both of us. Thank-you for everything and please know there is absolutely nowhere else I would rather be tonight.

Dave, thanks for being the man of Darah’s dreams. I was able to know how amazing Darah was at a young age, and I will admit she’s a tough one to share. But please know I am genuinely happy, there isn’t any other person I could hope to see her with. So Dave, please take care of her the way I know you can. She’s always been my person and that has been 20+ years in the making. Tonight especially, I think we can all see how radiant she turned out, and I can’t wait to see what the next 20 have in store.

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So everyone, please join me in raising your glass as we toast to the beautiful:

Mr. and Mrs. Darah and Dave Kwolek!
XOXO

 


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My Favourite Couple! 

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** All Photo Credit: Victoria Delkus Photography