This year, as we gathered to celebrate our 40th birthdays, one of my teammates remarked that the lives we’ve shared post-rowing have exceeded the years before we first grasped the oars as 18-year-old freshmen. It’s hard to find words to describe the “dash” between 18 and 40, specifically those beyond the factual events among us: rowing training and racing, graduation from OSU, graduate school for some, moves that took us near and far, marriages, births, divorces, more marriages, and even a death among one of us.
Reaching this midlife point happens so fast. How did we go from sleeping in dorms with early alarms and cold morning workouts to paying mortgages, getting kids off to school and making big career moves?
It really does happen in a flash. Time flies when you’re having fun, but growing up and adult-ing are not without challenges. Author and researcher Brené Brown nails it when she describes midlife as the time “when the universe grabs your shoulders and tells you ‘I’m not messing around, use the gifts you were given.’”
Looking back on my 40th birthday, I keep returning to the gift I was given as a rower at Ohio State, and how it influences my life every day: The gift is each other. It is all we learn from investing in teammates while making a commitment to create fast boats. It is this unrelenting dedication to others that fosters an environment in which the impossible is suddenly possible.
Since rowing at OSU, I’ve lived in California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan and Colorado, coaching rowing and working in research labs. I’ve been on campuses in the east, west and in-between (even spending a year coaching in Ann Arbor). Along the way, I’ve worked and learned with great people and have been committed to cultivating and maintaining strong relationships.
The gift I received at OSU keeps on giving. Rowing provided a classroom in which I learned to identify excellence in myself and others.
As rowers, we are always aiming to achieve greatness – through attending to the daily details required for high performance, including early morning rows, multiple workouts each week, eating the right food for fuel and keeping up with our academic goals. Practicing this individually and with my teammates aligned me with great people then and now. Dipping my toes into 40, I continue to be intentional about seeking and growing relationships with others who are learning and pursuing excellence in their own lives.
The gift of gratitude of rowing at OSU and the foundation it provided in so many areas of my life continues today. Since my time on the water, I have considered being part of a team, whether a rowing team or research team, a complete privilege. Especially now that I have my dream job as an assistant professor at the Colorado School of Public Health at Colorado State University. Instead of feeling like I have to go work, I refer to this “job” as going to school. I love being on campus, working with students, and learning new things every day. When I was on campus at OSU, I found my first true fit in a community. Today, I get to spend every day at a university part of a community, using the gifts I was first given as a rower.
Molly Gutilla, Class of ‘01