Twenty years ago, I retired from the competitive world of rhythmic gymnastics. Those who knew me back in the 1980’s remember me traveling around the country, spending summers at the Olympic Training Center or in Sofia, Bulgaria with the World Championship team. It was an incredibly time-consuming endeavor, and I learned a great deal about discipline, routines, planning, etc. Unfortunately, between my academics and gymnastics, I have very little time for much else in my life.
At 18, when I left gymnastics behind to focus on my studies at Georgetown, a huge part of my identity was lost. For years, all my trophies, ribbons, photos, certificates of achievement and various newspaper articles remained in sealed boxes. I guess it was too painful for me to go through these things. Yet somehow, in the past few weeks, as I have been trying to explain my journey to my new family, I finally found the will to go through all the boxes and organize all these amazing momentos from my past life as an athlete.
As I culled through all the newspaper articles and photos, I started to remember fondly all the people that came into my life during those years. I have no idea where any of these individuals are now, or what they are doing, but I am so eternally grateful for the time we spent together.
Throughout this cleansing process, my son has asked me a lot about this past life of mine. It must be so funny to him to see his mom in this different light. Meanwhile, I have actually found it quite entertaining to re-live some of those moments and share stories about what life was like back then. For those of you who saw Black Swan and thought that was intense– let me just say that was nothing compared to what I saw and experienced in the world of competitive sports filled with judges, score-cards, and nasty team rivalries.
In the end, I learned a lot from my years as an athlete, and a lot of the skills acquired back then have definitely served me well in my professional life, but I cannot say I wish the same for my child. There is something to be said for sleeping in on a Sunday, playing Wii or some board games at home, just heading to the park and having a spontaenous meet up with friends. It took me years to learn to appreciate having some down time, and to respect that not everyone needs or desires such an intense level of activity.
The beauty of taking this trip down memory lane is that it has truly allowed me to measure how far I have come in life. Twenty-five years ago, the New York Post did a feature story about me pursuing an Olympic dream. I never made the cut to go to the Olympics, and I wondered for many years if I had disappointed everyone around me. The fact is it really should not matter– I only need to ask myself whether I am disappointed in where I am in life. Today, the only regret I have is that I did not seek my family out sooner, but rather than dwell on the time lost, I prefer to focus on the future, and all the great material I have just uncovered for my son and his uncles to make fun of me.