Please, share in my joy, a wonderful occasion that has caused me to break my blogging hiatus . . .
I still count winning a state gold medal in high school track as one of my top life achievements. I know that at age 32 I’m not supposed to list high school accolades among my proudest moments, but I do. As I look back at my life back then and consider all I was going through – much of which I was unaware of at the time – I am amazed that I was able to stick with cross-country, winter track, and spring track for four years, earn 11 varsity letters, and win over 50 medals, ribbons, and trophies.
And so that state gold medal. I was the lead-off runner for our 4×800 meter relay team in 1993, and consistently handed off the baton within a few seconds of the leaders, giving our three other runners a chance at winning races at most meets that season. Earlier that season we had set a school record for the 4×800 during a losing effort in the Championship of America at the Penn Relays (but even a bronze medal from the Penn Relays is pretty darn cool). At the State Championships I handed off the baton in first place for the first time in a major meet – a good time to take the lead, I guess. The other guys on my team took care business, and we won the gold medal.
Years later, after I moved in with my Dad and spent most afternoons on a couch at my therapist’s office sifting through years of emotional muck that had become a barrier to my growth and health, I turned to that winning moment as a bright spot in an otherwise dark time. The gold medal, the school record, the picture of me and my teammates – these were powerful reminders of my ability to be a success during a time when I felt like a failure. And so I pulled my State Championship and Penn Relays medals out of a storage box, had a team photo enlarged, and ordered a small engraved plate to be set in a shadow box for display.
Shortly after the shadow box was made I had to return it to fix a minor flaw in the mounting. But then I moved out and my shadow box got mis-delivered to a corner of a rarely-used closet in my Dad’s house, and it was gone. I thought it was lost – one of my most prized possessions, a symbol of one of my proudest moments. I had lost several mementos since high school, no longer having access to my childhood house out of which I had to move abruptly (leaving much behind) and inevitably losing and breaking things in storage boxes and musty basements. But my gold medal? Over the years I have looked for it, wondering where it could be, frustrated at losing such a meaningful item.
On Saturday night at my Dad’s house, we found it. Preparing for our move to DC, we were over at my Dad’s house recovering boxes of stuff that had been stored there over the years. In looking for her wedding dress and some other odds and ends, my wife went into my brother’s closet and found what looked like a framed picture wrapped in brown paper. As she peeled back the paper she said, "Uh, Chris? What’s this?" I saw the gold medal and immediately began to laugh and shed tears of joy. All I could say was, "Oh my God, we found it! I have it! My gold medal! Oh my God, we found it!"
Needless to say, I brought the shadow box home with me. When I move to Virginia next month, I will probably display my gold medal in my bedroom where I will see it everyday. I want to be reminded of what I achieved during a difficult time in my life, and to be inspired to continue running hard toward realizing my potential, fulfilling my goals, and faithfully pursuing my vocation.
And, well, to be honest, next to those State Championship and Penn Relays medals is a good picture of a very fit, very healthy Chris. It’s nice to remember what was, but it is even better dream about what will be. This little shadow box helps me to do both.