I’ve been absent lately. A bit distance. I haven’t had time to write, and I definitely haven’t had time to see my friends and family.
I haven’t been able to write this blog the last few months because I got a new job. It’s been an exciting time in my life, but my world has also been turned completely upside down. And I mean that in the very best way.
I’m very happy to say that since April I’ve been working for Special Olympics Iowa as their Marketing and Communications Manager. I get to edit the website, write articles and press releases, talk to media, and run social media. It’s a dream job for me, but one that I never saw coming.
Those who know me know I’m not always the most warm and cuddly person. I certainly don’t like organized group activities or even the idea of fundraising. And yet, here I am. Working for a nonprofit and somehow feeling a strange sense of determination and purpose.
This new role has brought new challenges and stresses to my life. It’s a 9 to 5 job, but not always in the traditional sense. Last weekend we held our annual state Summer Games. Since I’m the new kid in the office I had just over a month to prepare all of my small parts that make this very large, very important event function. I brought work home with me every night. I replied to important emails after 9 p.m. I even got a text from our CEO after midnight once because that’s just how hard everyone works.
I had no idea if I was having fun or barely muddling through. Was I doing everything right? Was I living up to expectations? I’m the type of person that needs to please people. I have to do things right. I suddenly have all this new responsibility. People are counting on me to do things for them. I no longer have a babysitter watching my every move either. If I want to get something done I have to just go and do it.
It wasn’t until I was sitting two feet away from the pool in Beyer Hall at Iowa State University getting splashed while taking pictures very early in the morning on a Friday that I realized I was becoming a part of something so much bigger than me. And arguably much more important than any doubts I may have had about my performance before.
You see, when I first applied for this job and decided I wanted it I just saw the things I would get to do and be in charge of. I saw social media and editing and thought I had found something great. And I had, but it’s not great because of those things. They’re a bonus, but it wasn’t until I saw our athletes in action at the Summer Games that I realized I had signed on for the job, not for myself, but for them.
If you’ve never been to a Special Olympics event, I suggest you check one out in your area. For one, they’re happening all over the country all the time (believe me, I’m in charge of the calendar on our website). It isn’t a league that just gives a nice pat on the back to people with intellectual disabilities. Athletes actually get to compete. They get to play sports, just like anyone else. And they’re really intense about it!
When I called my parents to tell them I was thinking about changing jobs they had two different reactions. My mom was happy with my decision, but she asked if I was sure I wanted to work at a nonprofit. My dad, on the other hand, was over the moon. “Steph, you know what this means, don’t you? You’re going into sports! You’re going to be working in sports!” To the man who still owns a gray Ohio State shirt from 1989, this was the greatest parenting triumph he’d reached so far. Something finally stuck!
Truth is, before actually sitting by the pool watching athletes in their swimming events last Friday, I hadn’t realized that I had in fact gone into sports. And to the girl who watched “Almost Famous” for the first time when she was 15 and thought her fate was sealed, it was frightening at first. My dad couldn’t have been right.
But alas, here I sit thinking about upcoming softball tournaments and wondering what cool thing I’m going to learn tomorrow about Special Olympics. My dad was right. Sports have a weird way of bringing people together. I didn’t understand it back when I was little and got bored listening to a fuzzy Yankees games on the radio. And for the first time really since watching Kate Hudson lie about her age, I feel a sense of purpose in this new adventure.