This article was originally published on John Fennell's website.
Last year kicked off in Germany. It was my first taste of the extravagant tradition of Bavarian New Years. Hand cannons, fireworks, and steins of beer set the tone for 2014. To say the least, it came in with a bang. Without a doubt, 2014 will go down in my books as one of the best years of my life. I can’t even put into words how genuinely happy I am looking back on it. I went through the last 360some days with a youthful outlook through some real-life situations. I can wholeheartedly say that this has been my year of development. I’ve succeeded, failed, and learned.
It would be impossible to mention 2014 without discussing my crowning achievement of competing in the XXII Winter Olympic Games. The feeling of the Olympics is a rare phenomenon, which I can only describe with one word and that word is magic. In the truest sense of the term, they were magic. The road leading up to the Games taught me how to deal with stress, chase a dream, and how to be in a moment. It’s a funny moment when a dream becomes a reality and that happened for me in February of 2014. Not only did the fantasy of Sochi change me when I was there, it carved a district place in my soul. If nothing else, it ignited a fire that reminds me that this life is what you make it. I’ve made lifelong friendships, found new strength in myself, and discovered my place as a person. I attribute that fresh sense of self-awareness and perspective directly to my experience at the Games. They’ve changed me and I couldn’t be happier about it.
My hardest pill to sallow came at the end of 2014. In a lesson in humility, I learned the hard way what chasing a dream can mean. Because of the fact I am no longer on the national team, I learned that dreams may hurt you. They can crush you. They can break you. They are never guaranteed. As I write this post, I’m reflecting on the events that lead me to this place. I am en route to Lillehammer, Norway to compete in my final Junior World Championships. I’ve competed against the best in the world and now it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate. My previous Junior Worlds race was in 2012 in Park City where I finished 13th. Now as the most experienced and oldest athlete on the junior team, I’m in a new role. For the first time in my career, I am not the up-and-comer. I’m the veteran. I’ve had several races in Norway. I’m comfortable on the track. I know where the speed is and I know the lines. It’s time for me to have a decent result and leave my 5 years of junior racing on a high note. Failure or success, it is just an exercise in perspective. I may have lost a title or a position, but sometimes life’s blessings come when something is taken away. I am committed to stepping up as a role model and making the most of this opportunity.
I’ve had so many events this year that have played a part in shaping my identity. I’ve made a point of learning from all of them. Above all else, the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that I am no one thing. There is no one single defining aspect of my character. I am a student. I am an athlete. I am a leader. I am family member and a friend. Most importantly, I am a person who is in the process of defining their humanity. On my 18th birthday, I set out to make a list of all the crucial events that happened to me in that year. I called it “My 18-Year-Old High”. Now that the laundry list and the year that it happened in are packed away, I can confidently say I’ve learned more than words can describe in 2014. As cliché as this may seem, I am truthfully a new person because of my year. I don’t have any deep expectations for the New Year. My only hope is that I can continue to surround myself with positivity and continuously grow from my experiences. 2014 is sealed up nicely with a bow and I wouldn’t change any part of it. I am deeply joyed by how it played out and by all those who played a part in it. Thanks for the best year yet and here’s hoping for another.