It's Lit!: the Rio 2016 Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Reasons to journal when you travel:

1. You can look back on your adventures in some detail whenever you want!

2. You can wait six months to blog about your adventures because the details have been preserved for you.

Ha, whoops. I was in Rio more than six months ago and I'm only now sitting down to continue blogging about it. But I finally gave this ol' blog the facelift it so desperately needed (and I'm in love with it), and it totally re-motivated me. So here we are!

I won't dedicate a post to every single day I spent or event I attended in Rio. But the opening ceremony definitely warrants its own post because, hello, bucket list! And my journal entry for that day begins as follows:

"Today was so long but so good and my ears are ringing and I'm exhausted but so jazzed."

So that kind of sums up a day I'd been waiting for my entire life!

To get a little longer in the tooth, each country's delegation at the Games got a pre-determined number of press tickets for the ceremony, and we had enough for staff to use. So I laid claim to one without thinking twice!

Actually, that's a lie. I did end up thinking twice about it that afternoon. Since we had press tickets, we were going to be sitting at tabled seats in the stadium, which meant that we would be able to work. One of my daily duties was to send out a sort of newsletter after all events had concluded each day, and that night I'd be doing it for the first time. As the afternoon wore on I was getting nervous about putting it together at an event, and by myself (my boss wasn't going to the ceremony). I literally had to talk myself out of bailing and remind myself that I'd regret it forever if I didn't go because of nerves. Thankfully that self pep-talk worked! (Related: that happens to me before just about every amazing major life event I've ever had. I panic and briefly think about bailing, and then it turns out to be one of the best things I ever did. So that moment of fear has turned into a pretty good omen for me! Go figure.)

The group of us that ended up going to the ceremony together was entirely Games newbies. Everyone that had worked a Games before stayed behind, and everyone that had never worked a Games before wanted to go. I still find that pretty amusing, but I 100% guarantee that, should I be lucky enough to work more Games in the future, I will go to every ceremony I have the opportunity to go to. But it was actually really cool to go with other people who were also experiencing everything for the first time. We all matched each others' enthusiasm which, as someone who was extremely enthusiastic about literally everything, I greatly appreciated. :)

So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!

Immediately upon getting there, we wandered around taking pictures of things. At one point in the stadium, we ran into two Olympic Broadcast Service employees that had given some of us a tour of one of the Olympic Park venues the day before (so cool!) and gave pins to some volunteers. I'd been asked for pins numerous times since arriving and this was the first time I'd had any to give, so seeing a girl clutching one and saying "preciosa!" after I gave it to her was really great. You hear about pin trading at Games, but it was another thing entirely to actually experience it!

That guy is my hero.

As for the ceremony itself, it was... flawless? perfect? life-changing? To quote from my journal again (how self-aggrandizing is that?!), "there's a human element to the Paralympics that's so special, and I'm so happy this ceremony tapped into that and ended up being so beautiful."

I also handily compiled a list of moments/things that made me teary-eyed:

+ The parade of nations was led by the team of refugee athletes.

+ The Paralympic flag was carried out into the stadium by eight pairs of disabled kids with their parents; the parents were each wearing this sort of contraption that held their kid to them, so these kids that couldn't walk could feel as though they were walking. When they finished with the flag, they all waved to the crowd and the place went NUTS.

+ One of the torch bearers was an older woman that walked with difficulty and a cane. She fell as she was walking with the torch but was helped up and finished her leg unassisted. And again, the place was going nuts.

+ Team USA's entrance. (I mean, obviously.)

+ The lighting of the cauldron.

+ As each delegation marched into the stadium, they carried a giant puzzle piece. The pieces were all put together to eventually form a giant, beating human heart in the middle of the stadium. It was SO COOL and so symbolic and holy cow do I live for that stuff.

A man in a wheelchair rolled down that incline and catapulted through the "O"!
 If you squint, you can kind of see that this is Team USA.
 It's lit!
I made an attempt at a ceremony selfie. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And that work I was so stressed about? Totally a non-issue, despite being slightly overwhelming. I wrote a story about the ceremony, put the newsletter together (with some help from a fellow ceremony-goer, ironically, and lots of emails with my boss) and still managed to thoroughly enjoy myself. The downside of having to do the newsletter is that I was the last person working that night (and every other night), but luckily the group I was with was willing to wait a significant amount of time after the ceremony for me to finish up.

By the time I was done, the stadium was basically empty. But as we were leaving, we somehow ended up in an elevator with one of the handful of other people still there. And this happened:

He had me smushed against the back wall, his backpack basically up my nose. A coworker tried to sneak a picture of it, and the flash went off. LOL, beautiful.

And then we took a couple of media shuttles back to our hotel and, despite it being an extremely late night and knowing it would be an early morning, I cracked my journal open and hoo boy am I glad I did!

The full ceremony is on YouTube. You should watch it (yes, you). It's wonderful and I still can't quite believe I was there in person and I'm going to treasure this experience for the rest of my life.

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That Rio Thing

I went to Rio this summer.

You might not've known that. I went from not having time to blog to not having any desire to blog to a combination of the two, and suddenly more than half a year has passed since I last posted here (and 2016 is over?) and so much has happened in the interim. (So, so much.) So if we don't talk on a regular basis and/or you don't follow me on Twitter or Instagram (shameless plug), you definitely won't have known that.

So hi, I went to Rio this summer!

It wasn't for the Olympics. It was for the Paralympics. And it was perfect.

In March of 2014 -- after the Sochi Games ended -- I wrote a post titled "I'm Not Crying, I Just Have The Paralympics In My Eye." And honestly? That's more true now than it was when I wrote it. I've been pretty vocal about my support of adaptive sports in the years since, but being at the Paralympics in person... man. I swear the Paralympics are the sports world's best-kept secret. There's a human element to the Paralympics that you just don't get at other sporting events, plus all the drama and elite competition of the Olympics in a smaller, friendlier package that has all the kinks already worked out... it's great. GREAT, I tell you.

Before the Games, people were extremely concerned about what the situation was going to be in Rio; ticket sales were almost nonexistent, logistics were a mess, there were endless budget cuts to try to make ends meet, and on and on and on. But you know what? Venues were packed (packed!), crowds were loud and rowdy, and logistics were a little messy due to those budget cuts but what's life without an adventure and some questionable bus rides? The main press center gave off unfinished vibes and the media shuttle schedules definitely left something to be desired, but I wouldn't even change any of it. To be fair, I did hear stories about some venues being sketchy and honestly kind of scary, but I was lucky and only ended up going to nice ones.

Like, really nice ones.

My job was to help manage, so most of what I was doing involved sitting behind a computer in the U.S. Paralympics office in the MPC. But I was sent to help out with two sports, which were both unbelievable and totally worth the 14+ hours I worked those days. I spent two mornings at paracanoe, where we didn't medal but our athletes were so beyond overjoyed just to be there that I had to stop myself from getting teary-eyed while talking to them.

And I spent a day at paratriathlon, where we did medal and I ended up smushed against a metal barrier at the finish line so I could snap a picture of a Team USA podium sweep to tweet for USA Triathlon.

Do you ever have those moments when you almost literally have to pinch yourself because you don't understand how what you're witnessing could possibly be real?

And speaking of not understanding how what you're witnessing could possibly be real, guess what else I got to go to!

I finally got to experience an opening ceremony in person! It was phenomenal and I'm obsessed with it and it was every bit as magical as I ever imagined it could be. And what was really great is that I was with a group of people that were just as thrilled about it as I was. ('Cause, y'know, when you're going to check an item off your bucket list, you don't want to be surrounded people who'll mock you when you inevitably cry about it.) We were all working our first Games so we were like kids on Christmas morning, taking pictures of absolutely everything and getting emotional and watching it all unfold in a general state of disbelief.

Related: I worked with the most amazing people. Press officers and web managers and photographers and athlete liaisons, USOC employees and contractors, men and women, Games newbies and veterans... everyone was fantastic. I wasn't expecting that, to be plugged into this unit and bond with them over competitions and bus rides and copious amounts of meat. We were like a weird little family that passed around cold medicine and was always wearing matching clothes.

I'll cut myself off here and write more posts about more specific moments and experiences because holy hell do I have a lot of them (and hundreds of pictures!). But in the meantime, the Games ended months ago and I'm still kinda pining for them... so, y'know, I'm doing about as well as you'd expect. :)

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Perfectionism and Ugly Days

Hi, I'm Darci, and I'm a perfectionist.

I wanted to write a blog post tonight -- because it's the end of the month and apparently my new thing is squeezing a blog post in right at the end of every month, and I didn't want to let May pass without blogging a single time -- and I was struggling so much with it. I didn't have any good ideas. Eventually I sort of settled on writing a "life lately" post, but I couldn't even force myself to start writing it. I sat around all day avoiding Blogger and dreading it.

Why? At first I thought it was because I worked a lot this weekend and was just feeling lazy, which, okay, is definitely part of the reason. But when I thought about it a little more I realized it's because a "life lately" post felt... so weak. When I used to blog three times a week, running out of inspiration every now and then and needing the crutch of an easy post once in awhile made sense. But now I blog once every four weeks! I shouldn't be this stumped! I should have something to say after not blogging for four weeks, I shouldn't need to cobble something together that's lame and unimportant and not all that interesting!

But THEN I thought... why does it matter? This is my blog. I should just do whatever I want with it. I don't need to be perfect every time I post something. I'm not making money off of this, so does it matter whether or not I impress anyone? NO! It doesn't matter! I started blogging because I felt like it, and continued because I enjoy doing it. If I want to write a freaking "life lately" post, and if that's all my wrung-out brain can come up with, that's what I should write! Who cares?!

Answer: me. I care. I'm a perfectionist. If I can't do something well, I will often be loath to do it at all. I'm like this with my blog. I'm like this at work. I'm like this with completely unimportant things like makeup or drawing or doing literally anything. If I won't be able to completely knock a task out of the park, I have to literally force myself to even start it. I am paralyzed by perfectionism. And that's absurd.

So my goal going forward is to be kinder to myself. This summer is about to be INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE -- and not like "woo party!" insane, but like, "I might work 100 hours this week" insane -- and I'm not going to have the time or the energy to beat myself up about... anything, really. My last boss would give me permission to have an "ugly day," i.e. to totally suck at whatever I was doing, to take some of the pressure off, and I need to start doing that for myself. I'm gonna have some ugly days. My first draft of a project at work might be super lame. My blog post might be nothing substantial. But I'm not going to accomplish anything or ever get better if I'm stuck trying to do everything perfectly.

And look at that. My struggles ended up solving the problem I was struggling with in the first place. Ain't that something?

Anyway, that's all from me for now. Hope everyone's been doing well. Give yourself permission to have a few ugly days once in awhile. :)

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Things I Could Be Doing Instead of Watching Sports

Guys, I have a confession to make: I watch a LOT of sports.

I watch sports for fun. I watch sports for work. I watch sports for fun at work. And when I found myself thinking, "ah, can't do [insert task or activity here] at that time, that's when the game is on," or wondering what on earth I should do with myself on an off day, that's when I realized... I watch a freaking ton of sports.

And that got me thinking. If I watched less sports, I could be doing so many other things! Imagine what I could accomplish if I wasn't spending three hours a day glued to Mets games! There's a whole world of possibilities!

1. Working on this blog. Being a long-distance Mets fan, my only access to games comes via, which I watch on my laptop, which means other Internet activities are very limited. If I had those three hours a day to spend elsewhere, I could maybe write more than one post in a month, update some pages, clean up the broken images... Ugh, I should probably do all of that anyway. This place needs a major facelift. Might be time for some spring cleaning.

2. Sleeping. WHOA, what a wild concept. Instead of staying up late or getting up early to watch an international event I could, y'know, actually get eight hours of sleep. Pretty sure the bags under my eyes would thank me for that one.

3. Reading a book. I did read a book several weeks ago, but you know what it was about? Sports. Surprise! But if I had more free time, I could actually crack open a novel again. (Actually, I should do that either way.)

4. Going outside. Well, maybe not right now because it's snowing. Actually, it might not be snowing, it might just be the brutal wind blowing the snow around. (Yes, it's May tomorrow. Yes, it snows right around May 1st every single year I've lived here. No, I don't know why I'm still surprised.) So needless to say I'll be staying snugly in my apartment for the foreseeable future, thanks. But when the weather has actually been nice, I could've gone exploring (which I really do want to do!). I could've gone to a museum, gotten some culture in my life. I could've gone to see a Rockies game! ...Wait, that defeats the purpose of not watching sports. Damn.

5. Working out. Dude, it has been way too long since I've done any physical activity that isn't climbing four flights of stairs in the parking garage at work. If I wasn't spending so much time watching sports, I could be whipping my butt into shape. On the flip side, I could turn baseball games into workout opportunities; do 10 squats every time the Mets score a run! (Though in light of their 13-1 win yesterday... yikes.)

6. Cooking an actual meal. Raise your hand if you're super lazy in the kitchen! *waves both hands wildly* Most of my cooking lately has involved making a box of pasta and throwing some tomatoes on top of a bowl of spinach. Gourmet, I tell you. If I had a few spare hours, maybe I'd dig up the motivation to spend some time with my crockpot.

7. LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE. I could watch a movie. I could draw something. I could write in a journal. I could make something in Photoshop. I could pick my nose, for all I care. But no, I spent multiple hours every day stressing out about some athlete or another -- usually multiple athletes simultaneously -- and hoping they do whatever thing they need to do so they/their team can win.

I started writing this blog post this morning, and it wasn't finished until late evening. Why? Well, because I went grocery shopping around noon and then watched the Met game for three hours. And so it goes.

But hey, this is the life I've chosen for myself. Some of this sports-watching pays the bills, which is pretty rad. Some of it is probably going to give me gray hairs and take years off of my life, which is slightly less rad. But all of it is definitely fun.

Catch you on the next off day! *finger guns*

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