Sunday, May 25, 2008

Why Funhog?

OK, so I've gotten some recent questions asking where the nickname "Funhog" came from. It's actually quite an involved story - only read this if that intrigues you! ;-)

Back in 1993, after graduate school (MBA), I accepted a management job with the Atlanta Paralympic Organizing Committee (APOC), leading up to the '96 Atlanta Olympics. I got this job through an internship with the US Association of Blind Athletes at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. While there, I had met a boy who I had thought I was going to marry (of course, there's always a boy/girl involved).

Looooooong story very short, I got out to Atlanta, the guy decided he didn't want to join me as promised, and I was literally devastated. I entered into a period I call my "black hole", a period of depression, sadness and loss, that I am sure many people can identify with. But it was more than just the lost love; the job wasn't what I had been promised. I was hired for the "Logistics" department of APOC with the promise that I could move to the International or Sponsorships Dept (more in line with who I was) once I got out there. But they were empty promises and I began to hate not only my job, but the city that was organizing these games. Yes, we were associated with the Olympic Committee and I was going to be able to participate in working at both the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games in 1996.  But I am telling you, the IOC, USOC, ACOG (Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games), and APOC are/were some of the most bureaucratic entities in the world. Getting anything accomplished was incredibly difficult.

In Atlanta, it was stifling. In the city government, it was the good-old-boys versus the blacks. The nepotism and cronyism were rampant. I spoke 2 other languages and had a degree in International Management and event management experience, and was passed over for a couple of jobs in the Sponsorship or International department because someone's newly graduated nephew got the job (with no experience, no language, no specific skills).

Also, I did not fit in with the southern style. I rebelled and wore white after labor day, despite getting lectured by some of the "proper" women in my office. I decided not to wear makeup anymore (in the south??)! I am from San Diego originally, and I just didn't fit in. Fortunately I did find an excellent group of friends (no one I worked with) who were into mountain biking, and who taught me to rock climb. Almost every weekend was spent camping in North Georgia or North Carolina to mountain bike, or in Tennessee for climbing. 

I am a fiercely independent person, to a fault. I cannot work in that type of environment, even if it is the Olympics. I found myself blaming all of my exterior circumstances for my depression and sadness. Everything was everyone/everything else's fault. And I knew I had to take control of my life, take responsibility for my own happiness and my future.  

"Who cares if it's the Olympics?" I thought. So I quit. You can imagine how many people thought I was crazy, especially since it was actually a pretty high paying job.

All told, I lived in Atlanta one year, three days, seven hours and twenty-seven minutes!

I moved to Vail.  Ostensibly to get a job in International Marketing for a ski area (and to try to reconcile that lost relationship - which fortunately didn't work out), but instead, I became a ski instructor and got back into personal training, massage and group fitness (I did continue to teach Step in Atlanta). 

One of my rock-climbing and mountain-bike buddies was so happy for me to finally seek my own happiness, he said, "Jennifer, you're just a Funhog!"

And it stuck. It became my mantra. Funhog to me meant escaping my black hole, taking responsibility for my own happiness; following my dreams; not settling; doing what I love. No more blame, no more excuses. It's all up to ME! 

This was a defining moment of my life. That's what Funhog represented to me! 

Hopefully this story can inspire some of you to take that step as well. We are the only ones who are responsible for our own happiness, our joy. No one else, no thing, no situation is to blame. It's all up to us. I firmly believe in the quote: Do what you love, the money will follow!

But just so you know... I do share the Fun!! I even started a bicycle tour company to share my love of cycling in Europe. Now that's the kind of FUN I love sharing! As is my passion for Spinning and being a Master Instructor.

At the 2004 Tour de France, in the Caravan Publicitaire ( the parade of all the sponsors vehicles prior to the race) I saw this amazing little pink pig, which I christened as my own "mascot". The sponsor is a home products store called "GiFi" (like a Home Depot). The first photo is on the Champs Elysée in 2004 - notice how the Funhog is on three wheels as it makes serpentine turns - that little pink pig is hogging all the fun no doubt! The second is in 2005 climbing the Pyrenées.  The third is at the Team Time Trial in the Loire Valley in 2005 (this is my avatar for Pedal-On and Innercycling). Unfortunately GiFi pulled out as a sponsor for last year's Tour - little did they know that an American was poised to take lots more photos of their pink pig and secretly harbored desires to kidnap it and take it home!

Second Addendum... for some reason, Blogger won't upload the photos where I put the cursor like it's supposed to (I wanted them here at the end...); it only puts them at the start of the post. And getting ready for WSSC means I don't have time to contact them to find out why, so you'll have to scroll back up to enjoy the photos for now!


` said...

One of those things I always wanted to know but never got around to asking you!

Your story is living proof of an old Zen proverb:

If you are not yourself, then who are you?
If you are only for yourself, then who are you for?
If you are for others, you are for happiness

...or something along those lines!

Robert said...

Hmmm... not sure why the previous comment didn't have my name on it. Hope you knew it was from me.

' - the artist formerly known as Robert!

sandy said...

And I thought it was a homage to the crazy Tour car. Now I know the nickname preceeded the avatar!

Jennifer Sage said...

Robert, I knew it was from you because it showed up on my "authorize comment" email, but I'm not sure why it doesn't show up here! I love that proverb - it really hits home. Thanks!

Sandy, I'm going to edit my post and put a picture of the Tour "Funhog" at the end! I think it was when I was at the 2004 Tour that I first saw it, and christened it my own "mascot"! ;-) At last year's Tour however, this sponsor had pulled out, so no more "Funhog".