With every cartwheel on the front lawn, every headstand in the living room, every back bend in school—my little gymnast self wanted to achieve acrobatic awesomeness. I tumbled as a tot and bent my body as a preteen, but then my gymnastics days ended abruptly.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Bethesda Photography
I wasn't out on injury; my family moved and we no longer had a gym or a coach. So what could I do but resign myself to life as a spectator and watch the sport play out on TV? Yeah. I pretty much just quit.
Life went along without too many pangs of heartbreak that I wouldn't make the front of a Wheaties box. I stayed active and pursued other interests but lost any hope of ever being able to compete in gymnastics or even effectively do the splits.
This summer my eyes returned to the screen to cheer on the newbies as they competed for Olympic gold. I call them newbies because I recognized no one. My last heroes were the gold-medal team of '96. That's how this sport is, so physically demanding that you peak partway into the high school grades and often retire before college. These young girls quickly reminded me of the fun of the sport and the awe it inspires. I'm sure I could still stand on my head, but I'm far from flexible compared to the champs and I cringe at the thought of flipping above a balance beam—that always scared me anyway.
But memories of backward walkovers and chalky hands and torturous Mary Poppins stomach crunches awakened my inner athlete. Watching from my comfortable chair I felt short of breath, as if I'd just vaulted with the gymnasts. Yes, I had once wanted it all just like they do.
But what goes behind their talent and skill is more than just years in the gym. The sacrifices made by their families, those made by themselves, are huge. The fact that I gave up gymnastics so easily proves that I never came close to having what it takes. Many gymnasts move away from home at very young ages to live with, or near, their coaches. Parents take out 2nd and 3rd mortgages to fund their children's pursuits. It's lost childhood, money, family togetherness.
I wanted to be THAT GOOD without giving up my "everything else". I didn't want to sacrifice anything to achieve it.
"to suffer loss of, give up, renounce, injure, or destroy especially for an ideal, belief, or end"
When I consider what some people are willing to sacrifice, to make their dreams come true or to make someone else's dreams come true, I ask myself what am I willing to sacrifice? And for what or for whom? I have no regrets about not becoming an Olympic gymnast. In fact, I'm afraid that I would have regrets if I'd tried to go that far and my parents had sacrificed their money—and possibly their sanity—for me. I might feel guilty, even though I shouldn't. I might feel horrible, as if I had only thought of myself. If I'm giving up things in life only for my benefit, does it even count as sacrifice?
*photo credit, Bethesda Photography