On September 20, 2000, my life changed forever.
And it might not be in the ways you imagine.
Seventeen years ago on this night, I earned the title of Olympic Gold Medalist, fulfilling a childhood dream that was born ten years prior.
As I sit here tonight, putting the finishing touches on a presentation for my talk this weekend, I cannot help but reflect back on that night.
We weren't supposed to win. On paper, the Aussies had a 2.5 second cushion - their fastest four vs. our fastest four. An eternity in the pool, on their home turf. Australia's Golden Girl leading the way.
Pysch sheets are limited. Belief and desire can't be quantified.
And we had both of those. In spades.
We had prepared in every way possible - even up through those final moments in the ready room.
We had put in the work. Showing up day after day, saying no to so many things in order to say yes to our dreams.
We competed. Against each other - and now, we stood united.
United by a force so much bigger than us.
Fully aware of the legacy. Fully aware of the responsibility.
When Jenny's hand hit the wall, I looked up to the scoreboard and so.many.thoughts came streaming through my mind in a moment that felt like forever:
Is there another heat? Am I seeing that right? Holy shit. Holy SHIT.
And then this wave of emotion hit me - the most freeing and exhilarating feelings I had ever experienced.
The. Best. In. The. World.
This is it, I thought. THIS is what it feels like.
I remember thinking - this feels so much different than it looks like it feels from the other side of a TV.
I was just me. Doing something I had done thousands of times before. Except it was different. Totally different.
For 15 years after that magical night, I spoke about my climb to the top of my sport. In three years I went from an above average New England swimmer to the 6th fastest in the world.
Dreams Come True ~ So DREAM BIG I would write under my autograph.
I always shared from my heart - and shared my truths about that journey.
But, I didn't share all of them.
I left out the parts that I thought people didn't want to hear.
They don't want to know about your free fall into depression. Or your battle with an eating disorder. They don't want to know that on the night before you swam in Sydney, you were on the phone with your best friend - crying hysterically - because you had just stepped on a scale. They don't want to know that you felt like an outsider. They don't want to know that your inner critic was there to celebrate with you the night you won gold.
I buried the parts of my story that were hard + heavy + deep. And with it, I buried a part of me.
Last summer, I was called out of hiding when a fellow New England swimmer shared on NBC - and with the world - that I inspired her. She's now a three-time Olympian.
My phone blew up with calls and messages.
The inner critic rose from it's slumber. She's not talking about you. No way. There was some mix up.
I missed the live segment, so my older brother took a video off his DVR. Hearing my name was powerful. It's not often that you see / feel / hear about the ripple effect you've had - especially as a former teacher and now coach. That's not why we pour our heart into others. And. It's pretty powerful when those moments circle back to you.
With it's fists up ready to fight: You were just a relay girl who swam faster in prelims than you did during finals. You never made another team. Never won a World Championship. Never got to swim on your own. She must be confusing you with someone else.
The thing is - by this point in my life - I knew that voice of perfection and never-enoughness well and had the skill set to release it.
Something bigger shifted in me that day.
I felt a pull much like the one I had when I was eight years old - looking out at the stars wondering what it would be like to be on top of that podium.
A pull that I've spent the last year honoring and surrendering to.
A pull that has me so wildly out of my comfort zone - it's now starting to feel comfortable.
A pull that has me sharing ALL of my story - ALL of me. Unapologetically.
To pour into others in a different way.
That pull is my inner magic.
And you have it too.
Give yourself permission to do the things you need to do to honor that pull.
To be you. Unapologetically. Free. All of you.
No more hiding - or pretending - or burying. This world needs you to honor your gifts ~
And here's the thing -
Those gifts are already inside of you.
Waiting for you to come home.
Samantha Livingstone is an Olympic Gold Medalist, transformational speaker, high performance coach and mama of four. She inspires and empowers others to cultivate the courage, resilience and perseverance needed to let go of perfection and other limiting beliefs so they can live their dream. Samantha candidly shares her battles with her inner critic, depression, perfection, PTSD and parenting as a working mother because she believes in the transformative power of story – and the strength that comes from knowing we are not alone. She is on a mission to pay forward all that she’s learned to help others find joy and live free.
A mama of heart warrior and mama of twins, Samantha and her husband, Rob, live in the Berkshires with their four girls.
You can learn more about Samantha at www.samanthalivingstone.com.