I was trying to think of a way to describe how I felt when it was finally all over. The first thing that came to my mind was a “bad break up”. “No…no that wasn’t it” I thought to myself contemplating….then it hit me. It was as if someone I cared and loved for so deeply had passed away. It didn’t matter how much I prepared myself for that very last practice or that very last floor routine, it was over. Yes, I could have gone into coaching or perhaps tried to compete in the USAG world again, but gymnastics was what I did. It wasn’t who I was. I was eager to get into the “real world” and determined to become a “professional”. It didn’t change the fact that for the past 17 years all I knew were school and gymnastics. Get up in the morning, go to practice. Go to school, go back to practice. Come home, study, and go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. Super structured.
I was terrified. You see, in sports you can train really really hard and the outcome you’re looking for is to win (or to do your best, for you politically correct people). It can go either way, win or lose, you know what the end result will be. How was I going to apply that to the real world? Who was going to hire me? I had no professional work experience and I never had a real job before. When the realization sunk in, I thought to myself, “What the hell am I going to do???” I was lost and for the first time I had no idea who I was. I no longer knew what the outcome of my hard work would be. It was very scary. I was passionate about gymnastics, I loved the sport so much. I had no idea if I would ever feel that again and if I did…what would it be?
I went through the five stages of grief.
Denial: “This can’t be it….can it?”
Anger: I didn’t know how to channel my energy so I was moody all the time.
Bargaining: “Maybe it isn’t too late to start gym again?”….”No it’s absolutely way too late!”
Depression: To be honest, I couldn’t even go back to see a home meet. I was afraid of how I might feel and be sad all over again.
Acceptance: Awwww what a relief. I was finally thinking clearer.
I remember having a conversation with my dad. He told me that the world was now my gymnastics apparatus and I had to think that everyday is like practice and when something great happens it’s like sticking the landing. Let me tell you what…being a gymnast really set me up for life (or just being an athlete in general). Dedication, discipline, and determination have been instilled in me. I found the perfect man, my husband Thad, to be my teammate for life.
I think I’m tackling this real world thing pretty damn well. If I could give advice to my 22 year old self, I would say….”Quit worrying, keep working hard, you’re headed in the right direction, be confident, trust yourself, and don’t forget to enjoy life, because it looks pretty amazing from over here.” I don’t think I completely felt content with my life until I met my husband. Not because he “completes” me, it’s because he is the best support structure I have ever had (besides my family). Finding love, encouragement and support are the three main ingredients that help me be the best version of myself. It took me a little while to figure out how to start my life all over again. The unknown is scary. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but right now I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.
Until Next Time!