As a little girl, I often would pretend that I was being watched and “show off” for my imaginary audience. One of my “performances” included always nailing my streamline in the pool at swim practice. I knew I certainly wasn’t near the front of the pack in speed, but dag-nab-it, I would be at the top for technique. I always made sure that I didn’t pop up from under the water until I was well past the flags.  And then, one night, I heard it: my name shouted from across the Olympic size pool.

Our team’s head coach wanted me to demonstrate my streamline to our oldest (and thus, fastest) group on the team.  Somehow, out of the dozens of kids in the pool, he picked me out and brought me over to the high schoolers. I dodged and dipped past other swimmers and over lane lines to make my way over to their group and gave it my best shot.

Later that season, Coach Everett gave all the swimmers in his group gifts before he left for a new job at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The gifts were mostly those motivational framed messages underneath a gorgeous action photo. My sister received one and while I stood next to her, watching her open her’s, Everett tapped my shoulder. He gave me a parcel wrapped in newspaper. I’d become an honorary member of his group too.

My framed image has survived the move from California to Iowa and at least half a dozen college dorm room-->apartment-->loft-->house-->apartment-->and lastly, house moves. It’s stuck with me for 15 years and the message is ingrained firmly in my attitude: The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.

It was Coach’s way of saying, “No, Carrie, you may not be the fastest or the best, but I see the hard work you put in day after day. Your work ethic will take you places and help you succeed no matter what.”

There have been moments in 2014 already where it’s been seemingly written in headlines that I’m not the best photographer in the world. But, I return to that work ethic and keep at it to get better every day. This is no 50 yard dash. But I was never a sprinter anyway-I always signed up for the long distance events and stuck with it for the long haul.  Lap after lap.