In case you haven’t been keeping up with the Olympics, allow me to introduce you to Maya DiRado.
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
She’s a swimmer, a Stanford grad (with a degree in management science and engineering), and highly intelligent (earned a perfect score on the math section of the SAT at the age of 15).
This is her first Olympics. It’s also her last.
She’s retiring from swimming, moving to Atlanta with her husband, buying a house, and starting a job as a business analyst.
When I heard the commentators talking about her during her first swim at the Olympics, it caught my attention. She just sounded cool, like someone I’d want to hang out with.
But then the commentators added something. When talking about Maya’s plans for the future, one of the commentators declared it “a shame.”
I know what he meant—that if Maya were to continue swimming, she would no doubt achieve major feats. And she’s a joy to watch, since her gracious spirit and warm enthusiasm bubble over into every interview.
But Mr. Commentator, it’s not a shame.
It’s not a shame when a woman chooses her own life path. It’s not a shame when she decides to go for what she wants, even if it’s not what you, sitting up in your booth, want. It’s not her job to consider what the world thinks she should do. As it is 2016, this smart young woman gets to decide her own career path.
When you declare that it’s a shame she’s giving up competitive swimming, you’re making the statement that her worth is in swimming, that it’s the most she can offer the world. How on earth can you determine that? You cannot know her potential. You have no idea what she could achieve outside the pool.
From what I can see, Maya DiRado is intelligent, hard-working, and poised. Something tells me she is well-equipped to make smart choices about her own life.
And that, Mr. Commentator, is no shame. In fact, it’s a beautiful, incredible thing. And I, for one, am thrilled to see it.
Unless you live off the grid, you know there have been a lot of tragic accidents lately. And I’ve seen a ton of reactions. I’ve seen so many people laying blame and almost as many declaring “shame on you” to the blamers.
I can’t be one of them.
Don’t get me wrong, I would never say that laying blame in an accident is acceptable. But I can’t find it in me to shame the blamers.
Because although some people may be laying blame in order to make themselves feel superior, I believe most of them have a different motivation: fear.
Overwhelming, suffocating fear.
They need someone to be responsible. So they point fingers at the parents, the organization, anyone, any entity. They need something to blame.
Because if there’s no one to blame, it means that terrible tragedy was simply a random accident that could happen to anyone, even to them.
They’re afraid to live in a world where horrible tragedies can happen through no one’s fault. They’re terrified to know they could lose a loved one at any time even if they do everything right.
It’s an overwhelming thought to anyone, especially a person who is responsible for another human being.
So they point fingers. They declare, “The parents should have been watching better. That zoo should’ve had better security measures.”
But what they’re really saying is, “I’m scared to know that could happen to me, to my child.”
I’m not saying it’s okay to fabricate blame where there is none. I’m simply saying, I understand. I understand the fear behind their inappropriate reactions.
This world can be a terrifying place. And if we can just find some reason for tragedies, some underlying cause, then the world doesn’t feel so out of control. It feels manageable.
So every time someone points a finger and makes accusations, I hear what they’re really saying: “I’m afraid.”
I can’t shame someone for reacting in fear. Because that is a most human reaction–flawed, but human.