I think I’ve mentioned this on nutshell before, but there are a lot of things I love about my job. Even though I know I don’t want to work in community news for the rest of my life (or even the rest of this year), it’s a job in a field that I love and it has taught me a lot. Between the deadlines, stories falling through, unreturned calls, nightmares about going to press and an inbox of ever-flowing emails, comes learning, writing and most importantly, hearing stories of inspiration from some incredible people.
Anytime I come across a story that warms my heart, it makes my head spin and often has me telling anyone in a five mile radius about it for days. But, it’s even more special when the story comes from someone you know, someone around your age, someone who you can relate to, more or less.
This was the case when I met up with an old high school friend, two weeks ago, to hear his story. One I instantly knew would make a great front page for my newspaper. After being tipped off from a friend, (“Remember Nick Carriere from St. Matts?”) about a video that was circulating Facebook, I quickly got in touch with the guy who had graduated two years earlier than I had in high school and had played football alongside my old boyfriend for years.
Meeting at a coffee shop, as journalists often do, I had set aside a good 30 minutes of my day to get the facts from this football player, now turned national bobsledder. (Interesting story, or what?) An hour and a half later, I left completely inspired by what this 26-year-old had to say.
After leading the McGill Redmen on the field and being drafted 21st overall to the Toronto Argonauts, Nick suffered an off-season shoulder injury that left him with a year of rehab and a shattered dream. Being released from the CFL, he said to himself that maybe he had done what he had set out to do. He was free from the stress that comes with having your success only measured by your last game. Free from the pressure of having 20 guys, at any given time, ready to take your spot. For Nick, he thought, “Maybe it’s time to ‘grow up’, get a ‘real job’, ‘settle down’,” like other people his age seemed to be doing. But, in reality, he felt like he had lost his identity. “Nick Carriere, he’s a really good football player,” could no longer be said about him, something that had defined him for the last few years of his life.
After bouncing around to different parts of the country and trying his hand at the ‘professional world’, he said he knew he wasn’t living up to his potential. He wasn’t happy and is that not what we’re constantly told is life’s most important aspiration?
So, he got back in shape, regaining the 30 or so pounds of muscle he lost during his recovery and in the process turned heads with his incredible strength, endurance and perseverance. Being told, for the third time, that he should look into bobsledding, a sport that requires an explosion of raw strength from the outset, Nick decided to finally investigate something he hardly knew anything about.
Making a long story short, he was among the very few selected to attend a special camp in Calgary for athletes that Bobsled Canada feels could make an immediate impact to the national team. He was one of four men, all current or former CFL players, to be invited.
Now, with little money in his pockets, travel and training expenses gallore, only ever having gone down a bobsled track a handful of times and a slight apprehension for the unknown, Nick’s “real life” reality is that he’s moving to Calgary this month to train with the national team. In hopes that after a summer of hard work, he’ll join the world circuit and with any luck, will make Canada proud in the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia.
As we sat, years after graduating from high school, talking about our professional lives, Nick explained that of course he has concerns that he’s not following the usual “get a good job, marry a nice girl, buy a nice house,” pattern that so many of his friends have done, but for him and his own personal goals, he knows he’s doing what he’s meant to be doing.
The stories he told me about his amazingly supportive network of family and friends and all those who have put their time, their money and their belief into what he’s capable of, was truly touching to hear.
So why am I now writing ANOTHER article about someone I only sort-of knew in high school and has already graced my paper’s front page? Because his story is touching, important and inspiring. How often do we go through the motions of what we think “real life” is supposed to be. I, myself, am guilty for feeling like at age almost-24 it’s time to get in gear. While people roll their eyes at me and say, “you’re so young”, I sometimes feel like I’m on fast forward. Every day that goes by is another day not travelling the world, not at the peak of my career, paying rent instead of owning property, having a bare left ring finger and a modest bank account.
In the last few years, I’ve watched my friends (/nuts) quit their jobs to go travelling, take internships in foreign places, move to a new city just for a change, make sacrifices for the ones they love, suffer the mental pain of going back to school and each time, no matter how crazy or impractical their decisions seem, I applaud them with full force.
Life is about following your heart and without being selfish or neglecting support from others, making yourself truly happy.
And finally, because so many people have helped out our “little blog that could”, it’s now time to return the favour. With every link shared, comment posted, “Like” button clicked or word of encouragement spoken, you’ve made these five girls beam with pride.