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!