When I was about six years old and getting into trouble with my cousins, I snuck a peek at my older cousin's high-school binder. It was full of pages written in pen. PERMANENT blue pen. Up until that point, I had only written in pencil – good ‘ol erasable pencil – and I immediately aspired to someday be confident, responsible, and smart enough to complete my school work in ink. “No mistakes allowed,” they'd say, and I'd roll my eyes and pick up my Bic and say “Duh.” This was the stuff dreams were made of.
I'll admit that I set the bar pretty low with that one, but I'm confident that my six-year-old self would be blown away by my current collection of ballpoints. And if someone had informed me that one day I'd have my own desk with two “computers”, a fancy ID badge, and full access to an NHL locker room, I probably would have peed my pants.
THE DREAM TEAM
20 years later, a lot has changed but some things have stayed the same. On those busy nights and weekends when the glamour of pro sports seems particularly dull and tired, I'll sarcastically remind the web team that we're “livin' the dream.” And though it seems like a cruel joke at the time, it's actually not too far from the truth.
Like in any job, the daily grind has worn away some of the excitement I felt when I first started with the Oilers in August. Several weeks of frozen fingers, uncomfortable chairs, and rotating workspaces have caused Rexall Place to lose its allure, especially on a weekday morning. And the Press Box is perfect for watching the game, but come midnight, the empty arena is quite depressing.
BACK TO REALITY
Despite all that, a quick slap from my six-year-old self puts everything back in perspective. I often hesitate before walking in the locker room, and I have to remind myself that I'm allowed – and required – to be in there. Last week I flew on the Oilers private jet, and when boarding the plane I wondered how I managed to convince these people that I was worthy of such an invitation. Surely there are people out there who could do my job better than I can, but thankfully the plane took off before they showed up.
Now, I'm not saying that I haven't worked hard to get where I am. I was focused through high school, completed four years of University and college, and then spent four years working my way through part-time jobs, late nights, and long hours for very little pay. But that's not a unique story, so I struggle to understand how I ended up in this unique situation.
MS. SHARPE SAYS . . .
This morning, six Grade 7 students interviewed me for a school project. I explained what I do on an average day, the things I write about, the people I get to meet, and where I do most of my work. For a person who strings sentences together all day, I had a surprisingly hard time describing my day-to-day routine. But the kids were patient and took plenty of notes (some of them with pens! Way to go!) and I hope they thought I was interesting. (I'm actually NOT interesting, but it takes more than 20 minutes to figure that out.)
When I was a kid, I was a BIG Jets fan and this sort of assignment would have thrilled me. (In Manitoba, being a Jets fan was completely normal. In some circles, it still is.) I loved all the behind-the-scenes stuff from the locker room, the bench, and on the road, and I dreamed about being in the equipment room, flying on the plane, and chatting with the players or coaches.
Along with writing in pen and becoming a Professional Figure Skater/Fighter Pilot, my goal in life was to have this kind of access. Two out of three ain't bad, even if I had to move to Edmonton to make it happen.
* Speaking of growing up, my birthday is in eight days. Don't worry about getting me anything expensive or throwing a big party. I'm sure that whatever you had planned is fine.