With sweaty palms, shaky legs, and a nervous smile, I walked into my first ever job interview. I was greeted with a firm handshake and the usual smalltalk. She said I looked professional; if only she new just minutes before I had taken off the tags to my new and only button up shirt I picked out just for the occasion. In no time she explained, “now this interview is going to be a little different. Besides getting some basic background information later on, I am only going to ask you one question. Ready? How would you describe yourself in one word?” A million thoughts rushed through my head. How was I supposed to describe myself in one word? Years of experiences, accomplishments, and lessons could not possibly all be held in one word, or could they? I thought about every characteristic that made me who I am, and I tried to think about who or what was responsible for making them a part of me: gymnastics.
Gymnastics wasn’t only a sport, it was my first love and forever a part of me. It defined me my entire life, but even though I am not currently a gymnast, could it still define me now? Every single day I would walk into the gym and smile, because gymnastics made me feel alive. I dedicated my life to the sport for as many years as I can remember, the past eighteen to be exact. It all started when I was three years old and my mom introduced me to it; it was love at first sight. Eight years later I would find myself driving an hour each way for practice, an hour each way just to be the gymnast I so greatly desired to be. I would spend at least four hours a day, five days a week practicing, for the following nine years. It was hard not to love gymnastics after all I had been through. My gymnastics career was beautiful, but it was no where near perfect. I gave my time, blood, sweat, and tears day in and day out. When things got difficult, I gave more than I even thought I had to offer. I gave up time at home with family, with friends, and at school. I missed out on the typical childhood and teenage experiences, because the sport required so much of my time, but I was happy to give it; I probably would have given more if I needed to, because I got so much more in return.
Gymnastics made me feel alive as I was being flipped, twisted, and turned through the air. It made time stand still. The sport made me physically and mentally strong. It taught be how to be dedicated, passionate, hard working, and grateful all at once. Gymnastics taught me how to straighten my legs and point my toes. It taught me to get back up and try again no matter what, and not because I had to, but because I wanted to; it made me want to be the very best that I could be. It encouraged me to fight to achieve my goals, and find joy in the little successes along the way. In a sport that is based off of striving for perfection, gymnastics showed me that it is the persistence that yields rewards. Those rewards might not appear that day, but months, or even years down the road. It taught me how to defy gravity and feel weightless for a split second. It taught me to laugh at myself, stay positive, and keep going.
Gymnastics showed me how to be patient, to be kind to myself, and know that when I am trying my best that’s all I can do. It taught me to be respectful to others, supportive for others, and proud of others. The sport gave me amazing mentors and friends that will last a lifetime. It taught me how to flip and always land on my feet, to be successful in the classroom, and to get up every time I fell down. It gave me skills that I will carry to every aspect of my life forever. It taught me that with passion, anything is possible, and it is crucial to love what you do. Maybe most importantly, gymnastics made me the person that I am today and I am forever grateful for that. I gave it everything I had, but I got so much more in return. Gymnastics defined me for years; I was known as the gymnast. Gymnastics taught me more than I believe anyone or anything else ever could. Being a gymnast was difficult, long, and emotional, but it was always worth it, and if I could go back in time, I would choose gymnastics again in a heartbeat. I may no longer do gymnastics, but I will always be a gymnast at heart.
I slowly drifted out of my thoughts, and back into the present moment with the lady interviewing me eagerly awaiting my response. All I could do now was hope that she would see the sport and all it gave me in even a fraction of the light that I viewed it in. If only she would understand how much time, dedication, and passion I poured into gymnastics, and all of the lessons it gave me in return, I would feel at ease. However, if the sport had taught me anything, it taught me to follow my dreams and never loose myself in the process. I then looked up and stated confidently, “I’m a gymnast” and she instantly smiled back.