How We Got Here–Chapter 7
Congrats on the big day! Twelve years, you two definitely never rushed things did you!? Not like me, always in a hurry, which has served me well on my career path, or at least it did.
When I was told that Beijing would be my last hurrah, I was devastated. The track, the AIS, it’s all I’ve known and loved. All the training, the State Championships, Commonwealth Games and going to London were taken away from me, all because of a few dodgy muscles.
I’ve always known that running wouldn’t be forever, injuries and age were bound to take their toll no matter how hard I could train or push myself. However it’s one thing to know and expect it, it’s another thing entirely to have it ripped away from you. Did you ever feel like your future was ripped away when you discovered you were pregnant at 17? Being the awesome mum you are, I’m guessing you’re going to scoff, be outraged and say no emphatically.
I had been tossing up some options before I met Isabella. Isabella Frapton, the AIS’ Head Chef. I’d seen her around for years and thought she was cute, but I’d never done anything about it because I had to put all my energy into training and trying to win. Hours after I came back from the orthopaedic surgeon’s office and being on the receiving end of the life altering diagnosis, she came and sat with me. She told me I looked like a sad puppy dog (great conversation starter!) and asked me what was wrong. I told her everything and she told me that I would have to think of a new career path soon (as you know she doesn’t muck about) and told me about the casual cooking classes she runs for free for the athletes and invited me along to the next one. I said no at first, not because I didn’t want to, but I just wanted to get back on the track and prove my surgeon and my body wrong. I changed my mind when I caught a glimpse of her magic in the kitchen and a scent of the masterpiece she was creating.
I went to the class and gave cooking a go for the first time in my life. With you feeding me growing up and the AIS when I was grown up, I really had a lot to learn. When Isabella told me I had a flair for cooking, I thought she was humouring me until she gave me brochures on cooking apprenticeships and courses at the Canberra Institute of Technology.
I’d always heard that chefs were constantly under pressure and worked crappy hours and to see Isabella handle the heat (literally), manage all of the junior and sous chefs under her and cook to a deadline was absolutely amazing. She was in complete control, never lost it and was definitely made for it. When she got me to help out as a kitchen hand so I would get a taste for it (no pun intended), I really struggled and things were tense, but she still believed in me somehow. Things were tense because she was under pressure and for the first time in my life, I had no control and no idea what I was doing.
She eventually gave me private lessons, teaching me more complex dishes so I could be ahead of the eight-ball in my apprenticeship. This was just before I headed off to Beijing for my swan song. I wanted to go out with a bang and I literally did—a bang in my kneecap which tore my ACL—but not before I won my last three gold (100m), silver (400m) and bronze (800m) medals. I was really disappointed that I had to be operated on back home straight away, I wanted to pop over to Hong Kong afterwards and see Julie.
After Beijing, the hard work really began with starting my life all over again. Course and apprenticeship intake at the CIT won’t kick off until the start of next year, so of course I’ve needed to occupy myself for the last three months. Lucky, my injury has been healing quickly (by the way, thank you for looking after me during those first couple of weeks) with physio keeping me going physically, and I had my job at the AIS to keep me going financially, but what really got me through mentally was getting to know Isabella. Since I couldn’t stand for a while, she let me watch the classes and take notes for when I could eventually stand at the stove. I have to confess, I was more fascinated in watching her than the cooking and she knew this, and kept me working.
She wasn’t the easiest woman to read and I wasn’t sure if she was interested, but then again everyone thinks that when they like someone. When I went to kiss her, she pulled back and told me she was interested but wasn’t sure if she was ready for a relationship as she has only been single for a couple of months, with her last relationship being five years long. I told her I understood and would wait for her.
I didn’t see her for a week because she was busy with work and I was struggling a little in my recovery, but we kept texting each other. I was surprised when she came to see me during physio, I was lying on the table, offending leg up in the air doing stretches and she watched me for a change. Watched me work at my recovery and suffer in pain and then she kissed me to “make it all better.” She told me that she appreciated my patience and that she didn’t see the point in waiting, she was ready to move on. As you know, that was only two months ago and the rest they say is history.
To tell you the truth, as much as I like Isabella, while it may not seem like it, I was resistant to a relationship too as I was having to start over and I wasn’t sure if it was the best time to have one. Then again, I had no time for girls and later women as I was growing up and having to train, so really with forced, early retirement, what was I waiting for? When you met Travis, did you feel a similar way and ask yourself the same questions?
I appreciated that you invited Isabella to the wedding, however she felt it was a little too soon to be going to family events, that and I thought since we already have a new family member to meet in Peter, that bringing her might be a bit much.
We’ve both got great things ahead for us in the New Year…I start my Certificate III in Commercial Cookery course, complete with apprenticeship, and hopefully my relationship will progress. You and Travis can live your lives as newlyweds, complete with an empty house with Bethie going over to Perth. I know you’ll worry about her, just like you do with the rest of us, but she’ll be fine, we all will be.
I view every New Year as a fresh start, a clean slate, the start line of another race. Let your wedding be the start of a new race, although a marathon and not a sprint, like I do.
See you soon.