“We improve ourselves by victories over ourself. There must be contests, and you must win.” Edward Gibbon
I have realized that my concept of myself in my teens was all about my sports performance. I poured everything I had, all my energy into my sport. I could have gone a different way than sports, it could have been school, money, power, but that is what I chose. Sports and physical activity feeds me. My self-worth was then tied up in my achievements and performance. I was certainly focused. I was certainly driven. I went to the extreme. You could not tell me that I was going overboard when I was young. I could not, or would not have been able to see it. Only with stepping away for a very long time could I have any perspective. Only after about 22 years could I try to skate again. Once my old self was far enough away I could see what I was doing as a teenager. I was drawn back to the sport out of pure love for it. I also realized I love the training, the process, the people, everything about it. I needed to guard against picking up my old ways of thinking about skating and training and competing. I started back into the sport by keeping in good shape and only skating once a week for a number of years. In the spring of 2005 I wanted to see how well I could do if I put a great deal of effort into skating again. I was very happy that I had made this commitment to myself to train hard again.
I had to watch out for my old way of thinking about my priorities. Sometimes my old ways of thinking would creep back in, just like an addiction. If I got back into the sport at a high level of effort would I be going down the same road as a teenager with the same land mines? Was I doing this to fulfill some unrealized need in me to achieve? How was my achievement tied to my self-worth? Was it all about the performance? I had a good balanced self-esteem in many other parts of my life. Was I trying to fill this hole again? Will they love me if I win? Will I accept and love myself? Am I worthy? These are some very tough questions I had to answer as an adult starting this process. I was fearful of some of the answers, but I had to know. I had to go through this process to figure it out. I could not see all of these questions when I started out but I kept going and kept digging. The result was that I struck gold. My gold. I am more in tune with myself now than ever before.
Through this process I know better who I am. I appreciate myself more now than ever, good and bad. So I have come to understand that I have found things that feed me, that drive me, and that push me around. I can now embrace all of them. I am worthy of being who I am, without the achievements. My family and loved ones and God, will love me for who I am, good and bad, not what I do or accomplish. It took me a long time to accept that. That is my issue and no one’s but mine. I had to work it out on my own terms in my own time frame. The important thing here for me is that I keep doing the work and digging and I will find gold, always. Part of what I have learned is that I love to compete. I do not so much like head to head competition. I do love to take out the variables so I can measure my own progress. So the best person to compete with is myself! I will always be there. I can measure my own progress against myself. I love to see how far I can go. I will always be able to measure up against myself. This can be good and bad. Carried to an extreme I will run myself into the ground like I did as a teenager. As an adult I will lose my sense of priorities and harm other parts of my life. With a balance of priorities I can enjoy competing with others and myself just for the joy of it. If competition and achievement becomes too much, I can recognize it, and change my path back to balance and conscious decisions, rather than unconscious underlying hidden motives that lie buried in my subconscious.
When I push myself through competition I reveal my true self. I get to, learn who I really am. Hello, the real me.
Here is a video of my last Olympic trials 500 meter race in October 2009. My brother Bart Conner, Olympic Champion gymnast shot this video with comments at the end by my coach Dave Cruikshank Olympic Speed skater. I am the oldest person to ever compete at these trials. This is what I am training for now, to qualify for the next trials in October of 2013.