(The following is an excerpt from Derek's up coming book...)
As you can see from my typical day, I had a
lot of ďme timeĒ going on. When I felt strong, and had a solid day
of training, all was good. I was on a mission. But when I didnít,
when my training didnít go well, it was easy for me to get down on myself
and at many times, wonder what in the world I was doing. Was this
all worth it? The physical training was hard, no doubt, but pretty
quickly it was the mental part that began to weigh most heavily on me.
In the middle of nowhere, with pretty much no one around, when things arenít
going well they can quickly spiral downward and lead to a whole lot of
self doubt and emotional stress. When the sun went down, there wasnít
much else left to do but try to sleep while trying not to think about what
I was doing out there in the middle of Wisconsin going around in circles
all day. In short, it was lonely, very lonely. Youíve heard
the expression, ďcried myself to sleepĒ, well, at times I did. It
was a really hard time in my life. I wanted so badly to make (roller)skating
work, but I went through a lot of self doubts. Being out there alone,
there was no one to turn to for support. Many times, late a night,
Iíd make my way over to the snack bar in the pitch black and call my Mom
collect from the pay phone. She did the best she could to help me
get back on track but it wasnít easy. I know that must have been so hard
on her, to have her son calling her, leaning on her, crying to her, and
to have no other recourse than to try and find the words that would
bring his spirit back to life. I hope that someday when Iím the parent
on the phone, and itís Mia calling me, that I will have shoulders as big
and supportive as my Mom. If itís true that thereís a price tag for success,
I paid heavily, both physically and emotionally during that time in Wisconsin.
The Bradnerís had a stepson named Bruce Kaufman, who was a local pastor in the area. I grew up as a Catholic, and always believed in God but I wasn't very religious by any means. I came to believe that if you lived a good life and tried to do the right thing, that when it came time to settle up with the Lord I'd be OK. Primary for lack of anything else to do, I went to a few services at Bruce's church and in short order we became friends. He knew my living conditions where pretty lean, and I think he sensed that I was going through a very challenging time in my life.
One day Bruce gave me a Bible and an audio tape. Through no coincidence, the tape happened to be of Bobby Kaiser, who had been a former World Champion rollerskater. Bobby was also a Christian and he spoke about his faith, what it meant to him, and how he had shaped his life, both athletically and personally, around it. I listened to the tape, which encouraged me to pick up the Bible. Pretty soon thereafter, that's how I began to spend my nights, reading the Bible by candlelight.
Perhaps it was luck or perhaps it was Divine Intervention, I believe the latter, but that Bible came to me at the perfect time in my life. I was already searching my soul to find meaning in what I was doing and as I read the Bible, I came upon countless stories of sacrifice that I found myself able to relate to like never before. If Jesus could endure unspeakable torture and hang on a cross for three hours how much could it hurt to have to rollerskate for ten kilometers? It quickly and clearly helped me put things in perspective and in fact, it became a source of comfort for me during this brief but trying period in my life.
So here I was in the middle of Wisconsin, pushing myself to the absolute physical breaking point day after day, and at night I would sit alone and read the Bible. It was during this time that God truly stepped into my life and guided me. I think that up until that point my spiritual life had been more of a habit, ingrained in childhood, than it had been a conscious decision on my part to try and live my life in a way consistent with the Bible. Off in the middle of nowhere, when I seemed to really need some support, and there was no one around to give it, I realized that God was there, and He would always be, no matter where I was or what I was doing. If God could find me out there in the sticks of Wisconsin, then I felt pretty sure He'd be able to find my anywhere.
As I look back at my time in the Wisconsin countryside, I truly believe that the whole thing was God testing me. The purpose of this book is not a veiled attempt by me to impart my religious beliefs on you. If you donít believe in God, I most certainly donít agree with that point of view, but I respect your right to chose. But I can tell you firsthand, that thereís tremendous comfort in the feeling you get inside when you come to understand that with God, you are never truly alone.
For me, what I went through during that time in my life was the proof I needed to solidify my faith. I consider myself fortunate, in spite of all of the physical and mental suffering I went through, to have had this experience. It had tested my desire and commitment to the sport, it had nearly broken me physically hundreds of time, and it had pushed me to the edge mentally. All of this I came through. Most importantly, it had awakened in me a new relationship with God.
Since that time in Wisconsin I've learned that when life hands me a challenging situation all I need to do is the best that I can to prepare myself, and at the end of the day let go, and let God do the rest. I learned to have faith. That might very well have been the most important thing I ever learned.
Through faith you are not alone
- Derek Parra