Unplanned Joy

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

June 25, 2004

The road to success and happiness is paved with planning…and more planning.  This is the modern mantra of American culture.  If you want to be happy, plan for it.

Tasha’s life was a model of planning.  Born Natasha Danvers in 1977, she is one of Britain’s “brightest Olympic hopes” in track and field, a consistent medalist in hurdles.  As a junior, she was the 1995 European Junior Silver medalist, moving on to sixth place in the World Juniors in Sydney the following year.

In 2001 she took the Gold medal in the 400m hurdles in the World Universities held in Bejing.  On an objective numerical basis, scoring the best British all round hurdling performers, Tasha is ranked third.  Against world hurdlers, she is ranked sixth.

If anyone knows about the planning it requires to be successful, Tasha knows.  Looking ahead to the 2004 Olympics, she told Sporting Life in 2003, “I’ve been able to train hard.  I’m different mentally, more dedicated.  The results are showing now.”

And she knows her training is paying off.  “The way I’m running right now, the times I’m putting down, I think I should be aiming for not just making teams or finals.  What I should be aiming for right now- I’m at the point where I can go in and expect a medal.”

Tasha’s determination and dedication to her goals is the stuff parents and teachers thrill to see.  She is the shining light we hold in front of students to inspire them.  “Here,” we tell our young people, “this is what planning for success looks like.  You can be just like Tasha.  And you can succeed.”

But Tasha has another lesson to teach our young people.  She can teach them one of the most important lessons of planning for success, a lesson about what happens when the best-laid plans take an unexpected turn.

Right in the midst of her intense training schedule, Tasha noticed a change in her body.  “I was in the shape of my life.  I was more focused than ever before….Then things didn’t feel quite right.  I was feeling tired all the time, feeling flat for no reason.”

A trip to the doctor surprised Tasha and her trainer/husband Darrell Smith.  They were facing an unplanned pregnancy.

“The timing could not have been worse” she told reporters.  “If I had run at Athens it would have meant greater financial security, more recognition.  There is nothing negative that can happen when you have a shot at an Olympic medal.”

Like millions of women and couples around the world, Tasha and Darrell faced “The Choice.”  Even the term “unplanned pregnancy” seems to suggest getting rid of the pregnancy and getting back to the plan.

And like millions of women, Tasha is truthful, “I cannot lie, I considered an abortion.  On the one hand you look at the situation and say, ‘I can have a baby and incur more costs, more problems.’ We don’t even have a house yet, we are staying with Darrell’s parents.  And I am the major breadwinner.”

But this is where Tasha can teach us the ability to plan for the unplanned.  Considering her options, she realized the path to happiness is paved with more than plans.  “Even the thought of it [an abortion] depressed me.  I cried thinking about it as I tried to convince myself this is what I should do.”

Tasha is still facing an unplanned pregnancy, but she is happy now.  She looks forward to giving birth in early 2005.

Darrell reminds everyone that her career is bigger than one competition.  “We will definitely prepare for the Commonwealth Games in 2006,” and if things go as planned, they hope to participate in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Tasha’s picture is up on the refrigerator in our house right now, a reminder that some of life’s greatest moments come from planning to accept the unplanned.  A heart that is open to life as it comes is a more certain key for happiness than anyone has dared to admit in the past thirty years.

Tasha is a witness to the unexpected path to happiness.  She has new plans that seem to change daily.  On her website she tells her fans, “It’s six months before I give birth and already baby is dictating the pace.”

One suspects that Tasha will succeed no matter what happens in her life.  She has embraced the magic of unplanned joy.


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