When was the last time you heard unexpected good news? 2020 has been the year of the unexpected, but unfortunately, most of it hasn’t been good. I’m not going to run down the list of ever-growing events; we all know what’s on it. We are inundated with it all day long, from all sides.
So, I want to take a break from the constantly changing headlines, from the endless decisions that seem to have no good options. I want to tell you about something else unexpected.
Something good. An unlikely opportunity. An unforgettable adventure.
It started with a phone call on June 20, 2020. My husband and I were driving back from a visit with my new father-in-law. The pandemic had kept us apart for months, and we decided a quick visit and a game of golf was in order to celebrate the holiday weekend. I answered the phone and heard, “Hi Amber, this is Dave from American Ninja Warrior!”
My heart somehow stopped and raced at the same time. The next fifteen minutes got more surreal with every detail I heard about the experience I’d just been invited to be a part of — American Ninja Warrior, Season 12. A shortened season in the midst of a pandemic. 150 competitors instead of the usual 600. And instead of a six city tour, we would all be brought to the same city at the same time.
In just three short weeks, I’d be competing on the biggest stage I’ve ever been on. I’d be taking on the toughest obstacles I’ve ever gone up against. And I’d be doing it alongside the sport’s top athletes.
I don’t know what your life has been like in quarantine, but mine was not filled with salads and pull up bar workouts. Mine was filled with a small pandemic friendly wedding, blending five children into a new home, and plenty of curbside meals from my favorite local Mexican restaurants, like this one. Suffice it to say, I didn’t feel physically (or mentally) ready to live out this dream.
However, in my three years of ninja training at Apex Climbing Gym, I’ve persevered through bouts of illness, conquering the physical obstacles Cystic Fibrosis put in my path, and I’ve pushed through the mental fear of coming back after being seriously injured in competition. So, I did what I’ve done in the past: I let determination drive me, once again. And I leaned heavily on my ninja community, who provided after-hours training so that I could get back on obstacles while remaining safe and socially distant. And I leaned on my husband, who kept me fueled with the most delicious salads and built backyard obstacles for me to train on.
Competing in St. Louis with the legendary names I’ve watched soar through the course on my television screen year after year was truly a dream come true. I’ll never forget laying in my hotel bed that first night, in awe of the fact that I was sleeping under the same roof as all the ninja greats. No longer a ninja-in-training with hopes of competing on the show someday. Instead, a true American Ninja Warrior, with new hopes already blossoming: Hopes of raising more awareness in the fight to cure Cystic Fibrosis. Hopes of inspiring other CF Warriors to conquer their own obstacles. Hopes of finding my place in this incredible community of athletes. And of course, hopes of hitting a buzzer.
Season 12 of American Ninja Warrior will premiere on September 7, 2020 at 8/7c on NBC. The episode when I appear is expected to air on September 21.
For more ANW details, go to: https://www.nbc.com/american-ninja-warrior
For more about Amber’s daily fight with CF or to donate to the fight for a cure, please visit: http://fightcf.cff.org/goto/amberdawkins
CF Warrior Ninja shirts can be purchased at: https://www.amberdawkinsphotography.com/proofing/cf-warrior-ninja-shirts — 10% of all proceeds benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Witney Revelle Photography