I was raised to believe everything you do in life is a choice. You’re born a certain way with certain features and personality traits but everything else is a decision you are making. My Dad always said your not happy or sad, you choose to be happy or sad, you choose to get angry as a result to something and you choose to enjoy the things you enjoy. Sometimes decisions can be more difficult, like my most recent one. Do I compete on the US Freestyle Tour like I have for 9 years or go to Europe and Compete at the Slalom World Cups with the chance to make the Olympic Team?
Here is a little background, I have competed slalom before, in fact, I competed at the Olympic Trials for all of Africa in 2008, I won the event with a months training, which is the most I have ever spent in a slalom boat. (I didn’t have an African passport or heritage so the race didn’t mean anything other then a win) I also raced at the 2008 US Olympic Trials in Charlotte but only showed up the day before the race. I paddled terribly but had a great time and left very proud of my final run which is still clear in my head as a fast clean run.
I have competed in Freestyle much more often but not longer. Both Slalom and Freestyle were at an event called Fibark in Colorado, which was one of my first events. There wasn’t enough JR Women in the Freestyle to have a class so I ended up competing in the JR Men and getting third. This fueled me into the Freestyle scene with a ton of confidence in my paddling as hey, I was a twelve year old girl and I had just beat some boys! Beating they boys is still a huge drive for me which is why I perform well in the women’s class, watching the men’s run and thinking, that’s what I want to do really makes it so I am pushing myself harder and farther then I would if I constantly compared myself to my female competition. There are certain females I would say push my equally as hard and the most prominent one in my paddling career is Ruth Gordon. She also doesn’t limit herself to paddling compared to other people she just paddles as best as she can.
I love the feeling of being pushed but also find it hard because once pushed I am like “okay, I know I can do this.” Once you know you can do something the disappointment of not doing it stings a bit more but believing in yourself in the first place is what makes the moves and rides come together. You go nowhere without believing in yourself.
I put a lot of pressure on myself and in freestyle that excels me! I also love the feeling of people watching me because I want to show them hey, I am a little girl in a pink boat and I can paddle like most guys. The water isn’t controlling me I am the boss of the water! I still have a long road ahead of me to be at the same level as all the top men consistently but I believe I can do it, so I keep trying!
So there I was sitting there fretting at the thought of missing the events that make me feel good about my personality, my competitive streak and my padding. Missing those moments where I explode with 15 seconds left. I struggled coming off from the World Championships not because I didn’t win, but because I never had that explosion of tricks that I wanted to share with the world that day.
At the same time I sat there excited at the idea that I was strong enough to give up what I am most comfortable and accustomed to and try something new. Something where I don’t know how I will do, what I need to do or where to even begin. Doing something that instead of potentially making any money, I will be spending it all, and instead of having my best friends in the eddy with me, meet some new face and get to know others better.
The concept that I was even willing to think about going baffled me. But then again I did have a decision to make.
I decided with the support of my family friends that I would go the road less traveled. I have a strong faith in my father, as I know he makes mistakes but he never looks at them as mistakes only a learning process… That’s a choice he makes so his approval and support is something I always look for in big decisions. And taking this road wasn’t even a question to him. One of the reasons I chose this was the simple truth that at any moment that I didn’t believe in myself I had people who I don’t even know, believing in me. I had mothers of racers tell the coaches, “how cool would it be if Emily made the team.” The coaches responded that I wouldn’t make the team. I contribute making the US team to them, because I do always love a good challenge and nothing fuels me more than a “you can’t or won’t.”
I decided to take this road because every choice and decision is a door that leads to another and another and I feel like I have never opened this door before… so who knows where it will lead…. It could stop tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, and no matter where it ends I will be fine with that. Because I will forever be proud of myself for going on with this humbling experience and this amazing opportunity.
So here I am now, sitting in a bed and breakfast a miles walk from the course in Cardiff, Wales. I arrived here at 10pm and luckily the lady let me in to her home. I came to Cardiff with no lodging, no transportation and no clue as to where or what I would be doing. I paddled last night in the rain, under the lights, cold and tired, but I knew that it’s exactly where I wanted to be. Missing my family, husband and pups, drives me to paddle even harder. I am a truly blessed person and I know that no matter what the outcome of this new door, new experience and new atmosphere, I have made a great choice.
To my amazing husband who showers me with confidence, and all of those who believe in me, I am forever grateful!
Now….. Fast and Clean! : )