Even when we are standing in lines waiting for taxis, we have the same conversation with the parents around us. We ask ourselves what characteristics our children have that brought them to this point.
One thing we agreed on is that the support of family and friends is essential. The other thing that seemed to be common was that our kids generally had some obstacle, or more than one obstacle, to overcome. In many cases, like Margot's, they overcame physical injuries. So we guessed that making the decision not to give up, to fight through pain and rehab and getting back into condition, indicated an unusual level of commitment that might set them apart.
However, I know other athletes who have done the same and not made the team itself.
So there is coaching and politics and circumstance and a lot of other factors that are unique and unpredictable.
Some would say that luck or fate plays a part. I think this is an easy answer though. I think you can make your own luck and sometimes it comes from making tough decisions and playing that wild card that has only to do with your own personality.
There was a point this Spring, when the coach asked Margot to do something she did not believe was right. She agonized about it for several days. The short of it is that after a long period of being rejected by this coach, he offered her an in, an opportunity to make the team and compete in the Olympics. But she couldn't accept the conditions of his offer.
She refused and explained why, something I would have had trouble doing given the circumstances. After all the hard work and the recovery, to get to this point, and refuse the chance. Wow. I totally understood her reasoning, but was terrible worried that she would end up regretting her decision.
Well, she didn't regret her decision. Her integrity and honesty opened a dialog with the coach that led to her eventual selection, or was a definite part of it. She and the coach resolved a long standing misunderstanding.
That was one of those moments. Margot recommended a book I just finished, Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. Here is an excerpt that I think described this type of seminal moment, when we have a decision to make that affects the rest of our lives and can sense how critical the moment is.
"And it dawned on me that from that small patch of cobble stones I stood on there were lines going out in several directions, as in a precisely drawn diagram, with me standing in a circle in the middle, and today, more than fifty years later, I can close my eyes and clearly see those lines, like shining arrows, and if I did not see them quite as clearly that autumn day in Karlstad, I did know they were there, of that I am certain. And those lines were the different roads I could take, and having chosen one of them, the portcullis would come crashing down, and someone hoist the drawbridge up, and a chain reaction would be set in motion which no-one could stop, and there would be no running back, no retracing my steps. And if I hit the man standing in front of me I would have made that choice.
'Bloody idiot,' I said, and immediately knew I had decided to leave him be.
If I had punched the man in Karlstad, my life would have been a different life, and I a different man. And it would be foolish to maintain, as so many men do, that it would have come to the same thing. It would not. I have been lucky. I have said that before. But it's true."