Sunday, February 22, 2015

Senior Night

In life, there are moments when you feel like everything is coming full circle. I had that happen to me when I wore the Team USA jersey in my 20s just like the Mighty Ducks did when I fell in love with hockey when I was 4. But senior night was an entirely new kind of circle. The kind where there aren’t specifics like a Team USA jersey to focus on so instead you find yourself reflecting on your entire life. Because the reality is that Harvard Hockey is truly the pinnacle in each of our lives right now. I’m pretty certain I speak for all of the seniors when I say that Harvard Hockey has been the single most life-changing and rewarding experience for all of us thus far.

When you walk into the locker room on your recruiting trip, you can’t help but wonder about what it would be like to have your name on a stall. You can’t help but envision yourself as being a star player at the best university in the country. You create a dream world in your head where hockey, school, and life will blend perfectly together from the moment you step on campus as a freshman until the moment you graduate as a senior. And then when you make the call to tell Coach Stone that you want to play for her at Harvard, you smile (in my case you cry) as you feel the weight of 11 years of hockey and 13 years of school being lifted off of your shoulders as everything you think you’ve prepared for your entire life has finally come to fruition.

And then you actually step on campus for the first time as a Harvard student. “Where’s the dining hall? What’s the rink address? Wait, I was supposed to bring my gear… I thought we got all new stuff?! Oh crap, we had an eligibility meeting today???” These were just a few of the questions I had in my first week, followed my many more I’m sure. But the only thing any of us actually needed to know didn’t have anything to do with our questions nor did it ever actually need to be said aloud. It was simply that the second we began our freshman year, we became a part of a family whose core value was and still is “team first.” No matter what questions we had, no matter what adversity we faced, our teammates always had our backs simply because team comes first. Always.

And thank goodness for that because the reality is that nobody in this world can possibly prepare you for the inevitable and completely unexpected adversity that is going to happen during your time at Harvard. You never know when a blind side hit to the head will force you to take a year off with a concussion. You never know when your best friend from high school will get killed in a car accident. You never know when your Achilles tendon will turn in just the perfect direction to cause it to tear. And you certainly never know when you are going to be playing your heart out during your senior game and break your arm going into the boards. These are simply things no one can prepare us for, but they are things that we can get through. And that’s because we have Harvard Hockey. We have each other and we’ll always have each other to carry us through the most difficult challenges.

Senior day wasn’t exactly how I had pictured it. I think we can all agree on that. It still stings right now as I sit and write on this Sunday morning. My parents and my boyfriend have been doing an awesome job encouraging me and reminding me that this thing isn’t over, but for some reason there still seems to be something missing. And then I remember that all I need to hear are those words that go unspoken: team first. No one could have predicted the adversity this team has faced this week. Not me, not coach, not anyone. But guess what? This whole facing unexpected adversity thing is nothing new to us. As a senior you look back on your four (five, six) years of college and realize that the most important things are not the games you win or the grades you get. No, the most important thing you learn is how to work hard to overcome any challenge in life and to do it for the people that you meet along the way. Harvard Hockey and this senior class are far from finished with the 2014-2015 season. Stand up. Team first. ‘Til the end. 154.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Parents

My teammate Kalley Armstrong (Army) recently wrote a blog about me and my roommate, Marissa Gedman. It inspired me to want to start blogging again so here I am, finally sitting down and putting my thoughts on paper. When I first sat down at my computer this morning, I struggled to think of something to write about. Mostly because there is simply so much I could write about. I’m about to begin my final semester of college. I have a million things I could say and reflect upon. How can I possibly choose just one? Well, because it’s so difficult, I’m going to really make an effort to blog a lot more throughout my senior spring. The goal will be to reflect and share my stories from my college experience before I graduate and the memories begin to fade. But first, I think I want to write about the people who have made the memories possible: my parents.

Now, I’ll begin this by saying that of course there a ton of people who have played a variety of important roles in my life, but no one has experienced the challenges and joys of my journey like my family has. I once asked my dad if he ever in a million years thought that I would be going to Harvard. His answer actually surprised me. He said something like, “You’ll realize this when you have kids, but the second your child is born, you think they’re going to be the President of the United States someday.” I always thought that was a really cool way to view things, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized it was that mentality that my parents had that helped me get where I am today. Growing up, I rarely doubted whether or not I would get what I wanted in life because I had been trained to believe that I was capable of anything and everything. 

That isn’t to say that the road was always a smooth one. My parents and I have had our disagreements. Everybody does with his or her parents at some point. But I’ve realized that a really cool part of growing up is getting to reflect back on those challenges and recognizing that every fight I’ve ever had with my parents was born purely out of their love for me and my brother. My dad always says that when someone you love is upsetting you or doing something you disagree with, those are the moments that you hug them that much tighter. It isn’t always easy to do that, but it was that mentality that got me through some really challenging times when I was making decisions that were not going to get me any of the things that I had been dreaming about my entire life. I remember those times often and make sure to constantly hug my parents as tightly as they hugged me even when I probably didn’t deserve it.

Another amazing thing I learned about my parents is their philosophy on raising children. Last year when I was taking the year off from Harvard to play on the Olympic team, my Harvard teammate/ roommate, Marissa, wanted to interview my family for a project that she was doing for school. She asked them what they felt was the number one reason for their success as parents and their answer was simply, involvement. My parents had been together for over 10 years before they finally got married and their reason for tying the knot was that they both felt ready to have children. The main thing that they agreed on was that after they had kids, their world was going to revolve entirely around their children. I’ve always known this, but when they answered Marissa’s question, I thought it was interesting because my dad said, “I wanted to be fully involved in my kids’ lives because that’s how my parents raised me.” My mom however, said that she wanted to be involved in her kids’ lives because she didn’t grow up with that kind of support, particularly from her dad. Don’t get me wrong, my mom loved and always did love her dad, but sadly it took him until much later in his life to realize that family is the most precious gift this life has to offer. Fortunately for me, I was able to know him during the later years and I will always remember him as the kind, caring and loving grandfather who would have done anything for me. Anyway, the reason I say all of this is that my mom made a choice. She recognized something in her life that she wanted to be different for her kids and so she changed it. Not only am I thankful that she made that decision, but I learned that day that no matter what, no matter when, you can make a difference in your life and the lives of others.

There are a million other things I could write about my parents, but then I’d be here all day. I could talk about my dad’s creativity or my mom’s selfless heart. I could talk about all that they do on a daily basis to inspire me to be a better person. But I think instead, I’ll end by talking about the most important thing my parents have ever taught me: family first. No matter what I do, no matter where I go, no matter what mistakes I make or successes I have, my family will always be there for me. That’s not to say that other people won’t be a significant part of my life, but there is nothing more eternal than family in my household. And for that, I am so so so incredibly grateful. My world revolves around Team Fry and our success as a group. We are each other’s biggest fans and we push one another to be our best. Without Team Fry, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I have been able to accomplish more than I ever believed to be possible because they were there for me. So today, I hope you remember that no matter what, family first.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Since Sochi...

Well, I figured it was finally time to return to the blogging world. The months since the Olympics ended in February have been busy but enjoyable. However, as I get closer to the day that I’ll be leaving for Harvard for summer school, I approach the beginning of a new chapter of my story. That is why I’ve decided to create a new blog title that stretches beyond “aztosochi”.

So what have I been up to? Well, I’ve been delivering a lot of speeches to various local groups. I’ve been primarily sharing my story and spreading the message of dreaming big, working hard, staying in the moment, never giving up, and remembering that success is in the journey. While giving these talks, I’ve had the privilege of working with a ton of different people: young children, elderly groups, Ivy League alumni, old friends, and many more. The connections and friends I’ve made in the short time I’ve been home have me so excited for the future and I’m just so grateful that I’ve had the opportunities to meet so many wonderful people.

One speaking highlight was flying down to Corpus Christi to speak at a high school to their female athletes. A few boys and some Special Olympians ended up coming as well which was awesome. Anyway, the reason I went down there was because the father of a boy I played hockey with in Arizona almost ten years ago asked me if I would speak. His youngest daughter (who was pretty young when I played with his son) is now a freshman at the high school. They moved down to Texas a few years ago. I probably hadn’t seen them for over 5 years or so though. However, I was happy to say yes since they have always been such wonderful people and have always been so good to me and my family. I was a little nervous going down there and staying with them since I hadn’t really talked to them in such a long time, but when I got there, they made me feel like part of the family and I seriously could not be more thankful for the opportunity to go down and speak in their small Texas town. I realized after my time down there with the Killian family that there is something really special about how small the AZ hockey community is. Everyone seems to get to know everyone at one time or another, and along the way you meet some amazingly wonderful and loyal friends. It really doesn’t matter what team you or your kids played for growing up in AZ, the hockey community here at home truly is unique.

Anyway, apart from giving talks, I’ve been doing a little bit of travelling here and there. The national team, along with the entire Olympic and Paralympic Delegations got to visit the White House and shake hands with the President and the First Lady. That was quite the experience. It was cool to be around so many inspiring athletes and it was really great to have the whole team together again. The White House experience was amazing. We were able to tour a lot of the historical rooms on the lower floors. There’s something about looking at a display and seeing the silverware that Abraham Lincoln used during his time in Office that just blows your mind. Eventually we all lined up to shake their hands. It was kind of strange. You wait in line for almost 45 minutes with anticipation for the moment building inside of you and then you get up there, literally shake their hands and thank them, and then move on all in less than 30 seconds. Regardless, it was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.

Shortly after that trip, I and half of my national team teammates went on vacation to a private house in Mexico. It was so much fun and so relaxing. We were total bums the entire time, but it was the exact type of vacation that I needed. I read a ton, went into the water a bit, and in the evenings we’d play a little volleyball. The food they made for us was so fresh and delicious. Just writing about it all is making me want to go back!

Anyway, I just recently returned from a trip out to Boston. I went to join the festivities that accompany “senior week”. Every year before graduation, the senior class at Harvard gets to participate in events like “Moonlight Cruise,” “Last Chance Dance,” “Senior Sioree,” and “Senior Talent Show”. Well, since I would have been graduating with the class of 2014, I decided to fly out and spend the week with my friends from my original class. It was so much fun. Any time I return to Harvard anymore, it just feels like home. I cherished every moment with my friends while I was there. These are the kids who were there for me during my struggles freshman year. My friends for the past 4 years of my life. I’m so so so happy I was able to spend the week with them and I’m so excited to see what their futures’ hold.

So those have been the big adventures lately… Other than that I’ve been working my tail off in the gym preparing for next season. I gave my hips a nice long rest and stayed off the ice for a while, but I’m slowly getting back into it which has been great. Oh and I almost forgot to mention… My brother, Wesley, got into ASU! He proved us all wrong and for that, I’m incredibly proud of him. So way to go Wes! Now I’m up in Northern AZ relaxing with my grandparents at their campsite. I’m looking forward to watching the Kings/Blackhawks game tonight. Playoff hockey is where you really get to see how freakin good these guys are. I must admit though that I’m cheering for the Rangers in the finals for two reasons. One, my power skating coach started working for them this season so I’d love to see him win a Cup with them, and two, Dom Moore is just amazing and he earned my respect last summer when I saw him working his butt off at the Harvard rink doing drills and preparing for what has turned out to be an incredible season for him.

I head back to Boston in just two short weeks and I cannot wait to be a student again and I am so excited to train with my Harvard teammates this summer. This next year is going to be an absolute blast and I’m sure it will be another one of the most unforgettable years of my life thus far. I hope everyone else is doing well! And to my friends and family in AZ… Try to stay cool! It’s supposed to be 110 degrees tomorrow!