Interview with Author Shellie Blum
Shellie Blum exemplifies perseverance.
Shellie Blum is a woman who has overcome many obstacles to get to where she is today, a woman inspiring others to never give up in the face of adversity.
I first met Shellie through social media, and her daily posts on Instagram and Facebook always lifted the spirit. She seemed to have the right jolt of inspiration and encouragement just when I needed it! When I learned she wrote a memoir, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it because I just knew she’d have quite a story to tell. Gosh, did she ever. I read the first twenty pages and contacted her right away to ask if I could interview her. I knew visitors of this blog would also find encouragement from reading her book. So, I was thrilled when she accepted my request. Below is our candid chat on life, motivation, and the will to keep on keeping on.
Waterski Girl Wonder: A Journey of Perseverance by Shellie Blum.
Ask any life coach what the secret to success is and they will likely agree it’s the ability to get back up, learn the lessons, embrace the epiphanies, and let go. In this telling memoir, Shellie Blum has showed us firsthand just how successful she is. Faced with more obstacles than seems humanly possible, Ms. Blum has proven that the sun certainly does shine even behind the clouds. Her touching story reminds us that anything is possible, and the human spirit is unbreakable in the presence of determination. Thank you for teaching us all to ‘keep on keeping on!’ – Suzie Carr
You mentioned early on in the book how you’d be in heaven if you could make a living doing something fun. So many are taught to focus on practicality over fun. What advice would you give someone who has had this drilled into their brain?
Money isn’t everything! It’s so cliché, but so true. I think people end up being much happier and fulfilled if they are doing something in life that they are passionate about. Passion trumps money every time, at least in my book.
Okay, you at 13 with your little hillbilly redneck mind (your words!) riding a mini-bike through the dark woods with a flashlight taped to the handlebars, cracked me up and made me nervous! You had no choice. You needed a way home. What did this teach you about perseverance?
I was young, but even at that young age I felt shame. I was embarrassed to always have to ask people for rides to and from work. My independent streak started very early for me. I was a little bit scared riding my dirt bike at night like that, but I also felt a sense of accomplishment when I made it home safe and sound (without the cops catching me!). If I could do something that dangerous, and be okay, then I’d be alright in the long run. I could repeat those efforts, and push on to the next challenge.
A lot of exciting opportunities came into your life in a big way once you got the attention you earned and deserved. Most people in this situation aren’t sure how to handle the sudden rush. How did you keep your ego in check and stay so humble?
I am glad you think so. Staying humble was/is very important to me. Throughout my life I have seen so many people (athletes in particular) find success and forget where they came from. Somehow, I’ve been able to understand that no matter how successful someone thinks she is, there is always someone that will come along and be better.
There is that little boy or girl in the backyard shooting hoops, hitting a ball, running faster, running harder, and putting in the time and effort to outperform the previous generation. And of course, this same attribute spills over into other aspects of our life experiences. The examples are everywhere, that business person willing to burn the midnight oil to get that report out, or that politician willing to connect with their constituency on every level, or that person doing unaccredited, unacknowledged research that ends up being the cure for cancer.
I believe in the dreamers of the world. You can’t be a dreamer, if you believe you’re the best. My thinking is our ego has to play second fiddle if we want strive for more in life.
You skied for 12 ½ hours straight one day to complete 312 miles for a Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser. 312 miles! Your drive came from a little boy who had sat in his wheelchair on the dock all day waving at skiers, shaking hands with each one as they arrived. You said, “If he can sit there in pain all day and smile and encourage us, then I can keep going.” That is quite a mantra. Do you have a mantra that keeps you going?
The conversation I have every day as the Twins are scurrying to get on their school bus is – Give me some B’s! “Be Good! Behave! Be your Best, and Be a Blum”. What’s our family motto? “WE NEVER GIVE UP!”
Your mother has witnessed more pain than any mother ever should, with the horrific accident your brother endured at 19, your skiing and diving accidents, and the death of your other brother. What did she teach you about trusting the process of life?
This one is very difficult to answer. I’m not sure “trusting the process of life” is exactly how I would phrase it. For me, it’s more of an “accepting the process of life”. Trusting implies a bit of security, and I think once we realize there are no guarantees, and that life throws EVERYONE curve balls, we MUST accept it and learn to live to move on.
Everyone has a story to tell. Another old tried and true cliché I believe is Time Heals! For most, it hurts more to see a loved one struggle with pain, be it physical or emotional, than to experience it ourselves. Examples of strength while enduring these pains come in many forms and fashions. My mom is my hero. Always has been, always will be.
Jealousy can be thick in the presence of competition, as was the case when you began to receive deserved attention for your water-skiing skills. Your fellow skiers, viewing you as a rookie still, gave you the cold shoulder in the wake of your success. Some, when faced with such opposition, shrink down to lessen the pain of the cold treatment. How did you overcome this social obstacle and what advice would you give others facing similar circumstances?
Humor! Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh and make jokes because humor is an awesome jealousy deterrent. You can’t win over everyone, but the like-minded people that will, in the end, help defend you, will always remember your humorous side. And uh, hopefully, I won’t get Taylor Swifted or sued for plagiarism, Cause… ♫ the players gonna play, play, play, play, play, And the haters gonna’ hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, Baby, I’m just gonna shake shake shake, shake, shake, I shake it off, I shake it off!♫
In the end, it’s hard to be jealous of that person who made you smile or laugh.
A big goal of yours was to be the first girl to challenge the men on the freestyle Pro Tour. What was your core drive to this goal? Why was it so important to you? Was it something deeper than competing?
WE ARE WOMEN. HEAR US ROAR!
When at Cypress Gardens, you were a serious performer, refusing to party and stay out late because you wanted to be at your best for the audience. You took a lot of pride in your work. What kept your head in the game? Any advice for those coming out of the gate and entering into their dream career when it comes to knowing and respecting this value?
In my earlier days of performance show waterskiing, there was nothing more important than pleasing the audience. Every once in a while, on days when I felt my worst, I had to be my best. I didn’t want to let down the audience. My advice, set your priorities, goals, and dreams. What’s important to you? Put them into order and act accordingly. But pay attention to your own needs, and moderate those needs as well. This advice is coming from an extremist. Paying attention and moderating needs is an extremely difficult balancing act, especially if you don’t know how to be moderate. For me, broken bones and age have helped me understand the value of this. But, it’s something I’m still working on!
The unraveling of so many things occurred after your accident, including one incident when you were on your way to your therapist and repo men stopped you. They allowed you to attend your therapy appointment and even drove you home before repossessing your car. This made me tear up because the ones we’d expect to treat you the worst, treated you with respect, while those we’d expect to treat you with respect and kindness, at times didn’t have the dignity. What are your feelings on this?
I’m glad it affected you in that manner. I thought so too. It is surprising where you will find empathy and sympathy when you’re down. Makes me think of that cool line from A Streetcar named Desire. “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers…” In that moment with the repo men, an understanding took place. We were the same. I knew they had been that low too. I was honest with my frailty, and they respected that. Everyone has had their struggles in life. It’s best to try not to judge.
After the accident, you had a lot of anger towards a few key people involved in the tragic moment and Cypress Gardens, justifiably so. One of the pivotal moments in your life seems to be when you came face-to-face with the one who you relied on to cut the rope that ultimately broke your neck and ended your career. You forgave him. The anger left. And you were able to move forward, even with a new understanding that this man wanted you to succeed. Tell me about this epiphany and how it came to life in you?
I should have never been put in that horrible position to begin with. This fact is where most of my anger had stemmed from. It has taken years and years to get past that anger, but I have forgiven everyone involved, including myself. I have come to realize it was what was meant to happen. We can’t change our past. We can only look to our future. We must believe and dream for that brighter future.
My favorite line of this story is this: “If Cypress Gardens could morph beyond itself and turn into something brand new (Lego Land), then surely we skiers could also learn to move beyond Cypress Gardens.” So, I have to ask, what’s next for Shellie Blum?
Politics perhaps? Fight the good fights and let the others go. How to know the difference at times, I’m not sure. But I’m willing to try and find out. Lots of things would have to fall into place, and already I can feel resistance in my newest endeavors/arena, the book publishing world. I’m fighting in a new system. Things have changed, but I am feeling the “powers that be” still at work, still trying to thwart the dreamers. But they will not succeed because my success is up to me, and already I have been blessed by the positivity of like-minded peers, people such as yourself Suzie. They cannot stop the storytelling dreamers.
Thank you Shellie for sharing your inspiring story with all of us. Your words and actions are forever etched in my heart and, no doubt, the hearts of many.
Connect with Shellie Blum
Wishing you the very best,
Suzie Carr, novelist