I had the opportunity on October 23, 2018 to hear Laurie Hernandez come and speak at my school about her story and give some advice to others. Laurie is eighteen years old and just graduated high school, how crazy is that?! Eighteen years old and she is an Olympic Athlete with medals, no less! She has such an amazing story that most people should read and hear. At the age of nine, she told her parents she wanted to be one of those Olympic athletes. As some may believe, being a young athlete in the spotlight at such a young age could be toxic for her growth and development, but I can say with full confidence Laurie has grown up to be such a young, nice, bubbly and normal teenager. Her parents were always there for her, through everything, and gave her some very good advice. Even on her worst days in gymnastics, they did not doubt her. They knew it wouldn't be easy, but they could still see her passion for the sport and knew she shouldn't ever give up for anything.

Along with her being any Olympic athlete, she is a New York Times Best Seller. She wrote the book I Got This: To Gold and Beyond and also wrote a children's book, She Got This. There is truly something that is so admirable about her she is so down to earth.

She was not given a single thing and has worked for everything she earned and received. She has not had an easy ride whatsoever. She has broken bones, and she has had surgery for things that she has injured along with having a condition where her body has extra bones and it had put her out for a little. There was a lot of time where she felt like she wanted to give up, but she didn't. There was a time where she sat down with her mom and told her "I am tired, my body is exhausted I am done with gymnastics." Her mother said "If that is what you really want, but let's wait three months and see where we are then." Three months go by, and Laurie goes back to her mother asking again "soo mom it's been three months what we doing" and her mother then says, "I think we should wait another three months." And here we are 4 years later, and Laurie is still doing gymnastics and is such a pro at it.

One of my favorite stories she told was probably about her and her sister. There was a time that Laurie had a really rough competition and was very emotional. She was at a restaurant after the meet, just sobbing about everything. The waitress just kept bringing her tissues and there was a pile of tissues that was very high, and, at the end of the dinner, her sister grabbed the tissues from the table to bring home with them. Laurie's father was asking why she was bringing home the tissues and even though Laurie didn't believe in herself at that exact moment, her sister did. Her sister told her father that she was keeping the tissues until she made the Olympic team and she would give them to her when she made the team to remind her that she wanted to give up at one point but good thing she didn't. Obviously Laurie overheard this and thought, "Lame you really going to give me tissues?" but she let it go. When she made the team for the 2016 Olympics, her sister bought her a goodie bag, and she was in tears sobbing about it and Laurie was super confused until after she opened the bag. There was a card that was filled with times that Laurie doubted herself or wanted to give up or thought it wouldn't ever work out, and there was a makeup bag and in there was all of her tissues.

Listening to her and listening to her story has made me realize that anything is truly possible if you put your mind to it. There are a lot of different things you can take away from her story but here's a few that I took away.

Be courageous, not fearless. She believes that being 'fearless' insinuates that you aren't scared at all. However, there is always that one big thing that you're afraid of, and it is inevitable to just stop your heart from racing and just "stop doing that." And courage says that you are scared but I am going to do it anyways.

Define success for yourself, not other people's standards. Each and every person in this world has a different idea of what success is. Success, for some people, is just getting into college and graduating and others that is just a minor thing in their life. Some people view success as being the richest person they could be and owning as much stuff as they can. But she expresses that your success is defined by you. "There is no time limit on success, you don't need to have everything by 20 or 22. You can have what you want by 25, 30 or even 60. There are so many successful people out there that found what their passion was when they were older. There is really no time limit for what you want to do." If you find out at age 30 you want to create your own business, go ahead! If you find out at 50 that you want a new career, go and do it. You have to do what you want and how you want to be successful and not let anyone else define that for you.

Have patience and be gentle with yourself. Laurie herself is an over-thinker, so I think she speaks for anyone who is an over-thinker or even if you aren't, she said that when something doesn't go the way she plans it to go, she feels uncomfortable. Which is so true for so many people when you have a situation that doesn't go the way you want it to go, and then you are uneasy. You have to learn to take a breathe and be easy on yourself. You have to be able to know who you can talk to when you need someone, who can help you take the load and burden off. See how you can move forward from the situation. "Be patient and gentle with yourself! You are doing just fine. You are right where you are meant to be, just keep moving forward"

Thank you Laurie for coming out and spending your time here at Seton Hall, and a super special thank you for sharing your story with us. You're a sweetheart. You are amazing.