The gender of their three children had very little effect on my parents’ approach to raising us. As far as they were concerned, we were three different and diverse personalities, each with an individual temperament and approach to the world. My older sister, for instance, was the family dreamer and artist. Her greatest joy in life was, and still is, spending solitary time in the outdoors. She has travelled extensively, hiking through far flung mountain ranges and paddling distant waterways. She now lives in amongst the giant redwoods of Northern California and teaches environmental education programs. My younger sister, on the other hand, was the social butterfly of the family, always happiest when laughing and chatting with her friends. Amongst the three of us, she was the only one with any real interest in dolls, clothes and make-up. She still lives in the same small town we all grew up in, and is at the centre of an amazing support network of family and friends – one of the most fulfilled and grounded people that I know. As for myself, I was the tomboy of the family. I had perpetually skinned knees and torn clothes. My idea of the best way to spend any spare time was to play basketball or ball hockey in the driveway with my brothers, or throw a football on the school playing field. I collected hockey trading cards and watched every Grey Cup and U.S. bowl game.
Luckily for me, my father also grew up with a love of sports. Throughout his life, he has coached football, basketball and softball. Both he and my mother encouraged my love of sports every step of the way, cheering me on from countless sidelines in every type of weather. What he taught me, about sports and about life, is that hard work and joy, and a desire to work with others as part of a team, are far more important elements of success than ego and talent. Years later, I read somewhere that there is nothing in the world more common than a talented and unsuccessful person.
In fact, I was never the most gifted of athletes, lacking the size, strength and natural athletic fluidity of some of my teammates and opponents. But I always had the determination to pitch in and put my heart and soul into whatever game I was playing. I never allowed myself to be undermined by my own ego, or forget that my individual accomplishments were secondary to the success of the team. I will never forget the look of pride on my parents’ faces when I was named female athlete of the year for my small town, and when I was made captain of my college basketball team. Modest accomplishments in the scheme of things, perhaps, but these successes of my youth have given me the confidence to get through some of the tougher challenges that we all inevitably face in the course of our lives.
To this day, physical activity is a huge part of what keeps me centred in my life. Golf, swimming, tennis, bowling and skating are my fountain of youth and serenity. They are also all interests that I hope to pass on to my own daughter. So far, she seems to take as much joy in them as I did. Time will tell whether they are long term interests. I hope, like my parents, I have the wisdom to let her find her own style, her own way of living a fulfilled life.