So when I watched Gabby Douglas flip and twirl and fly, I didn't just envy her body. I wished I had her talent. Her determination. Her strength. But I knew I couldn't get it without years of grueling training. I knew how unattainable it was.
So sometimes I feel guilty while watching the Olympics. Here are these athletes from every corner of the globe proudly representing their countries. Here's me, a couch potato in my own living room, representing no one.
Then I watched the countries parade into the stadium with their flags held high. Really, this is the least interesting part of the games. I should've turned it off and got on my math homework like a good little student. But I kept watching. And I began to feel inspired.
I realized that glory isn't a full time dream. That these people are finance advisers in Seattle and bricklayers in Nepal. They take time off high school and college to fly out to Sochi. They've got families. When they told me that certain teams had never brought home a medal, I realized that dreams grow old. That being the best in your own country for one year isn't enough.
But that's not what it's about.
I admired the lone athletes from places like Paraguay and Togo. While Canada, Russia, and the USA teams marched in over two hundred strong, they had no one but a handful of coaches behind them. They came from warm climates. They didn't intend to go home victors. Some of them don't even come from the countries they represent. That Paraguayan woman is American, adopted from there as a child. The guy from Togo? French. It's easier to make those teams than the American and French ones because they are the team. Yet you can see from their faces that they don't feel like fakes. They want to represent these countries. They want to represent themselves. They want to cheer and be cheered
As I sat there couch potatoing, I realized that a dream doesn't have to define you. And even if you want it to it never will. Medals get dusty, your body will grow old, and forty years from now no one but the host city will remember these games even took place. You have to go home and get on with your life.
A dream can make you proud. Proud to hear an entire stadium cheering you on. Proud to carry your country's flag. Proud to cross the finish line just in time to score a bronze medal.
But you don't need to stake your entire identity on it.