Why I Dropped Out of the Olympics

Today I dropped out of the Olympics.

Wow, that was a crazy sentence to write. No, I wasn’t invited to this celebration as an athlete (although my 10-year-old self would have loved that!). I was invited as a volunteer. Katie and I began the application process more than 2 years ago, and it was my full intention to be in Rio de Janeiro right now, wearing my volunteer polo and getting ready to help the Games in any which way I could. But obviously I’m not in Brazil at the moment, so what happened? Let me start from the beginning…

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Olympics. I remember seeing it on TV for the first time in 1996, and my third grade self was hooked. I love what the Olympics stand for. It is amazing watching people of different nations and backgrounds come together through friendly competition. I love seeing the passion in the athletes’ eyes as they push themselves beyond their limits, and I celebrate with them as they show the world what they’ve spent their life training for.

After watching the 2012 London Games, Katie and I said to each other we wanted to be a part of the Olympics. We knew that unless they added an ice cream eating competition to the games, we wouldn’t be able to participate as athletes, so being a volunteer was looking like the most feasible option. The application deadline was back in 2014, so we signed up together and were on our way to the Olympics.

The following months were sprinkled with online trainings, tests and group interviews. In November 2015, we were officially accepted as volunteers. We started planning our trip to Rio, and even began researching places to stay.

And then the frustrations begin. I could go on and on complaining about what happened, but instead I’ll condense it into a few sentences. Katie quickly received her placement as a press volunteer, and I waited months – well past the promised deadline – and still had heard nothing. My numerous emails to the volunteer committee landed on deaf ears and I received the same canned response to each message. I finally received my placement one week – ONE WEEK – before the Olympics began. But by then it was too late. It would be impossible to obtain a Brazilian visa, find affordable accommodation and book a flight.

The point of this article isn't to rant about how I feel I got screwed over. I've done enough of that in my own time and I’m finally at peace with how things turned out. I mean, I do think Rio missed out on some pretty cool volunteers, but hey, maybe it just wasn’t in the cards for us. At least not this year. Maybe we’ll see what Tokyo’s like in 2020… And maybe not.

On the bright side, not going to Rio has brought us to Europe, which has been an experience that I will always cherish. There are people we never would have met and places we may have never seen if our plans had gone through as expected.

The lesson I’ve learned is that dreams are sometimes left unfulfilled, and that’s okay. We’re sometimes told that a dream that doesn’t come true means you’ve been unsuccessful. That you’ve failed. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes timing isn’t right, and sometimes the best part of pursuing a dream is the pursuit itself.

And I think the bigger lesson that's worth meditating on is that sometimes the best laid plans can fall through. Sometimes we plan and prepare for something and in the end it just doesn't work out. Maybe there's a reason. Maybe there's not. But there will always be other opportunities and other dreams.

I’ve learned through this to trust in my journey, through its ups and downs. Through disappointments and pleasant surprises. We don’t know what dreams we will see unfold in this lifetime, but we have to trust that everything will work out the way it’s meant to be.