An Open Apology to Shaun White (And His Mom)
Dear Shaun White (and your mom),
Almost three years ago, I wrote you an open letter. It is best described as a missive of scathing accusation. I was angry when I wrote it, and I was wrong to write when I was so angry. I channeled a lot of my anger at you, and that was misplaced. I apologize sincerely and without reservation. Quite simply, I was wrong. I do not know if you ever read my letter, but your mom did (she emailed me). I did email her back but never heard from her again. If you do read this, please tell her I am sorry.
My humbling epiphanies came in waves. First, 10,000 people read that letter the first day it was posted. The next year, I’d pretty much forgotten about it, and somehow social media resurrected it with 20,000 hits in 24 hours. It was all a bit overwhelming to be validated for something as ugly as my anger. I back-peddled a few times, burying the letter under more essays about how writing in anger is never wise, but I still feel my culpability.
Many things have changed since December, 2012, when I wrote the letter. I notice you did a lot more press about your CHD (Congenital Heart Disease) in 2014. I take absolutely no credit for that as I do not know that you even saw my letter and also my letter wasn’t very motivating. So thanks for doing that awareness work.
Even if you had done no additional press about CHD, I was still wrong and you still would be right to live your life as you see fit. When I wrote that first letter my little boy was only nine. Now he’s almost thirteen and taller than me. I don’t really write about him or his sister much anymore because they deserve (and have always deserved) a privacy that I sacrificed to my pain. In the years to come both of my children will decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives without public comment from me. Neither my son, nor his sister, is much interested in CHD advocacy. Neither is my husband for that matter, after twelve years of it I burned them all out. This year, for the first year ever, we didn’t even go to a heart walk. After doing serious injury to my physical and mental health for 12 years to raise money to combat CHD, we all had enough.
I quit. I quit trying to save the world and decided to focus on the beautiful children I have living in my home here in the present. I don’t know what, if anything, I will do for CHD advocacy in the future. I’m not in a place where I feel like making that commitment right now, and whenever it happens, any commitment I make must be done with the input of my family. I was a heart warrior mom, but now I’m just trying to live as a civilian, allowing both of my kids to have the most normal life possible and eliminating this constant cloud of heart defects from blocking out the good parts of our entire family’s life.
Now I see why you wouldn’t want to make CHD into a big thing, because it’s not your life. Your life is your life, and I am sorry I didn’t respect that until I saw my own child struggle with this identity issue. Recently, I listened to you in an interview talking about your mom and how she treated you like you could do anything. I wish I’d been as wise as she was as early as she was. You’re lucky to have such a smart mom. There are two million people with CHD out there, so this need for research dollars and awareness is not down to just one person – it’s not down to you, and it’s certainly not down to me. There are two million stories, and the people who have the right to tell them (or not tell them) are the ones living them. You and your mom got that right when I was too wounded to see it.
So, Shaun White, I am truly sorry for my old letter. I’m sorry I stirred up the ire of other heart parents against you. That was not fair to you or to them. I finally and fully understand that the fear and anger of my son’s illness is far less important than the living of his life. The beginning and end is not as important as the story in the middle. The opportunity and freedom for my son and for you to live the stories of your own autonomous lives is what we all fought so hard to achieve. I missed that fact three years ago. I missed a lot of important things these past years, and I’m trying to stop missing opportunities and make things right.
I wish both you and your mother and whole family nothing but the very best, and again, I am sorry, I was wrong to direct my anger and frustration about my personal pain at you when all you were doing is what we want for all of our children: living the life you fought to keep and living it large.
Amanda Rose Adams