Alcuin Stories

Thriving on Survivor

When channel surfing these days, you might find longtime Alcuin parent Maria Shrime Gonzalez, well, actually surfing on your television screen.
That’s because Gonzalez was chosen as a contestant on the 46th season of Survivor, one of CBS’ longest running reality shows. As the season premiere (Feb. 28) got closer and closer, Gonzalez sat down with us and talked about how making the show was a dream come true, but also one of the most challenging experiences of her life.
Getting cast on Survivor has long been a dream of yours. Talk a little bit about that and what it was like to finally get the nod for season 46.
I think the most amazing lesson for me through this is that you don’t ever have to give up on your dreams. Keep dreaming those dreams, but release the timing of the outcome. Be clear on your WHAT and WHY, but release the control of the WHEN and the HOW. Getting the green light was so much validation for me also that you’re never too old to go after what you want. You don’t have to sit back and let those dreams slip away because you should be doing this or you shouldn’t be doing that. And now for the rest of my kids’ lives I can remind them that their mom fought for what she wanted and they can too! J
What appealed to you most about the show that it has kept you a fan all these years?
I love the raw, stripped down, vulnerability of the show. It’s fascinating to put people into an environment that is challenging, depleting, intimidating, overwhelming, awkward, and watch how they can rise. That speaks to me so powerfully and parallels the most challenging times in my life as well. Often sinking is not an option so you learn how to swim.
As an avid watcher of Survivor, you’ve undoubtedly become very familiar with the format. Did that familiarity help set your own expectations of what you were about to experience?
Having watched every season I had a great idea what to expect, but no one can prepare you for the magnificence of the moment pulling up to the beach and seeing Jeff for the first time. It’s magical, intimidating, terrifying, empowering, and everything in between. Also we are all incredible armchair quarterbacks, but the only way you will know if you have what it takes is to actually experience it firsthand.
Watching the show on television is one thing; seeing how it is produced is quite another. Talk about the enormous amount of work (by cast and crew) that goes into putting a show like this together.
Competing on the show is incredibly exciting, but watching how the show is made is mind blowing. I was constantly in awe of the magnificence of production and how things were seamless to us as the participants, like a beautiful choreography in which we never had to learn the steps, just watch it all be performed. They are so passionate about what they do and it shows how much love they have for their jobs. Every piece of their puzzle fits perfectly.
Were the physical and mental demands more than you were anticipating or about what you thought they would be?
It’s really hard to know it’s going to feel like until you’re in it, and then there’s no turning back. You’ve got to hit the ground running, literally and figuratively. In many ways I knew it was going to be challenging, whether physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, or even spiritually. But there was no way to know exactly how those challenges would affect me, but I knew I had the tools to face whatever was in front of me, and pull from life experiences.
Your friends and family must be flooding you with text messages as the episodes start to air. Talk about how exciting this has been for you and for the people closest to you.
This has been the most exciting thing I have done in my life. EVER! I am a very private person and also rather introverted, so to put myself in this position is really funny and surprising. But I didn’t want to be that parent that just tells their children to go after their dreams. I wanted to show them. And now I get to watch their excitement, listen to them counting down the days until they get to see their mom on TV, and relive this experience from their perspective. It’s been so much fun to introduce Survivor to people who have never watched the show too. We’ve had to wait a long time for our season to air and I’ve been blown away by my kids’ abilities to keep a secret. Maybe we have future Survivor players in the making!