Dear Steve, Dick, Jillie, Kelly…& Managing Director and Team Principal of Dick Johnson Racing, Ryan Story,
Today, Monday 23rd August 2021, marks TEN YEARS since my life changed in the most Magical way…completely out of nowhere – Surprising us all!! haha who would have thought what would unfold after that day at Queensland Raceway, being raced around that track?!? 😁 NONE of us had ANY idea what was to come…what struck my life like a fierce, beautiful lightning bolt, out of absolutely nowhere!
My hotlap with Steve Johnson, in the beautiful #17 beast, out on Qld Raceway – doing something my ‘blood family’ did but I was on the sidelines, not having a way to indulge in it myself – having it (racing) in my heart my whole life…meeting Steve for the first time IN the racecar (wow, such an awesome moment – I was right beside this awesome professional racer who, I’d loved witnessing his magic, his talent and skills as a race driver, when he was on/off track at race meets!), meeting the man I affectionately call my “Racing Dad”, Julianne Johnson my “Racing Mum”, and Kelly Johnson (your family has truly been an inspiration to me…the way a family ‘should be’) – and being around this Team that keeps Dicks racing Dream alive…and those beautiful cars out on track, doing what they do best…
3.5mins out on that track turned into:
– 10yrs of finally having the belief in myself that I never really had, the first 40yrs of my life…and finally knowing what ‘pride/being proud’ meant;
– Finally finding a way to ‘let out’ my sense of adventure and fierce spirit, which had been hidden for my entire lifetime…I knew it was in there, but I never dared, much less knew how to, ‘let it out’. An absolute shit-ton of fun and adventures, including: swimming with sharks, having stunt motorbikes jump over me, being on TV a couple of times, flown down to Melbourne given the VIP treatment including a chaffeur with my name on the board, at Arrivals (wait…what? haha), driving a jetski myself, flying above QR in a helicopter while a race was unfolding below, climbing an indoor rock wall…and, doing something I never in a million years dared even think I could do – getting down out of my chair, surround myself with raw nature and Climb Mt Coolum on my beautiful Sunshine Coast 💙 …plus many, many more adventures, living the Life I had never dared to Dream – also having the incredibly humbling experience of having someone approach me to tell me that witnessing me living this new life of mine, has saved their own life (what an honour it was, to hear this…);
– Raising almost $10k (so far…reaching for that magic 10k…!) for a charity very close to my heart – giving back to them for the many years of intensive support they’ve given me personally;
– Being surrounded by the care and respect I’d craved my entire life, finally having people (the beautiful Johnsons, and the race Team itself) have belief in me, and see my potential, and worth – the worth I just couldnt see in myself back then.
To quote my (now) favourite line from a movie “NOBODY puts Baby in the corner!”. That was me, in the corner of my own life…its all I knew, and what I’d learnt. Not now – Nobody DARE put Baby in the Corner!! *defiant look* 😉 haha
– Acceptance of the wider car community when at shows/events – or at Team Mates night etc (I never really went to car shows/race events etc before this magical day, I just never felt a part of it all, back then – because I ‘missed out’, I never really thought it would be a part of my life. It is very much my (excuse the pun!) driving force, now!);
– Building so much belief and faith in myself so that, even though the last 4yrs has been incredibly tough personally, and I’ve had to pivot away from my ‘bucketlist life’ for now, to more of a ‘survival mode’ to get myself through it…I could now reach into this newfound self-belief and strength, to help me through.
– From my newly discovered love of all things Climbing…and getting out into raw nature, throwing my body into it all (with the support & assistive equipment I require) – I’ve discovered that this body of mine is far more powerful and strong than I’d ever given it credit for. There’s a well-known question in the fitness/training world “Why do you train?” – I train, to dominate over this body of mine that doesn’t work 100%. I wouldnt call myself a ‘gym junkie’ haha…but being a part of my local gym & fitness community has had profound benefits, far more than I ever thought they would. I belong…they are also part of my ‘family’, now. As a bonus, I know for sure that I have increased my (unknown, and limited because of my disabilities) life expectancy, with ‘discovering fitness’, in the later stages of my life (beginning this after 40yrs – which is ‘heading into ageing’ when you live with spina bifida & hydrocephalus).
I may be ’10yrs older’ since this magical day….but in some ways, especially in my mind (maybe not the body so much haha…I definitely know that I’m 51, right now! In saying that though, all the work I’ve put into my fitness & Goals, is definitely helping this body of mine, slowing down the progression of ‘ageing with disability’) – I feel so much younger in my mind & spirit than I felt on, and before this special day!
– Finally knowing what I am ‘here’ for. From being completely lost, to finally finding Me, Tania, the woman who does have worth.
Steve – I know I’ve said it so many times haha…but, thank you so much. That time with you in the car (and with your Dad and the Team out at QR that day) when you quite literally Raced me (or ‘co-piloted’ me as it was called at the time…which I love thinking of it that way! haha) to my Dream, has turned into something that quite literally, has saved my life, 10yrs on. To be honest I dont know if I would still be here now, if it wasnt for what unfolded since that special day. That day saved my life, in many ways.
PS Steve you were so patient, especially with the time it took the crew to get me in the car beside you – and when I teared up (those tears were from overwhelm – and from the person I was back then, not ‘fear’…are you kidding haha I wasnt scared, I couldnt wait for you to FLOOR that #17!! 😂👌) – when all you wanted to do was to get back out onto that track! I still remember when you told me “when we’re out there, look down at my feet changing pedals” …out on track I just didnt know where to look, much less down at your feet haha…it was insane! Throwing it into that first corner, my mind was like “OK..there’s the corner…brake….brake….he IS gonna brake, right?!?!”😂😂👌 Loved it!!
Feeling that undeniable ‘click’ inside of myself as we were coming back into the Pits, a true knowing of, I had changed as a person (you can see in the official Hotlap video, me taking a big breath just as we were coming back in…right there was when I felt that powerful ‘click’ inside me, and knew I’d changed, just like that – I now knew I was exactly where I was meant to be….and I could do ANYTHING I dreamed of. My little bucketlist venture was born, in that moment – and the ‘me’ I thought I knew up until that point, was changed forever – that person was gone (although I do temporarily creep back to that person, when under extreme stress…but now with the knowing that I can do, and be, more than what is happening for me in that moment).
I was finally Me, Tania – the woman I’d been searching for my entire life 💙
Still ‘pinching myself’, 10yrs on 💞 So blessed, so grateful xx
(Ryan Story I’ve included you here too…I dont know your involvement in the Team back then (did we cross paths before I knew I’d met ‘the Doc…THE Ryan of DJR’? haha) ….but just to let you know I feel blessed to have met/to know you, I’m so grateful for absolutely all you have since done for this awesome Team, and family – and for how you have treated me, with so much respect. Dick has had so much praise for you over time, and I (we all!) have gone on to see why)
The next 10yrs…I have no idea what it has waiting for me…but…BRING. IT. ON! 💪👊💞
To Dick, Steve, and all at The Team (Jim Beam Racing, as it was back then) who made this incredible day happen, the day that went on to shape my future…Thank you all so much xx
Forever indebted to you all – my Racing Family
with Love and gratitude,