Overall, 2015 has been one of, if not THE most life-changing years I’ve had. For those not familiar with my story, I suffered a knee injury back in 2013 (second semester freshman year of high school), which ultimately took me out of rhythmic gymnastics. For two years I mourned the loss of the sport that had been such a huge part of my identity for ten years. 2013 and 2014 were difficult mentally and emotionally. I felt very lost during those two years, not knowing who I was or what I was worth without my sport. For a long time I hung on to a thread of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could go back to gymnastics. You know, make a comeback after a long hiatus, go back to the sport I loved so dearly. But who was I kidding? I knew that my physical condition wouldn’t allow me to return to the life I had grown up in and cherished. That chapter had closed, and it took me a long time to be at peace with the fact that I would no longer be a competitive gymnast. Now I realize that, in addition to being deeply saddened, I was also afraid. Afraid of letting go of my past identity as a gymnast, afraid of finally stepping outside of my world, my insular bubble, my comfort zone.
When 2015 came rolling by, I decided that I was done grieving. I needed time to process the injury, come to terms with it, move past it. Now, and only now, am I in the proper mental and emotional state to venture forth and rebuild my identity from scratch. I am ready.
Thus, the overarching theme of my 2015 was finding myself again. I’ve tried all sorts of activities this past year- synchronized swimming, diving, contortion, jazz/lyrical dance- with hopes of finding a passion that could fill the void of losing gymnastics. Believe me when I say, it is not easy being a beginner again after the fall from glory. What’s that quote they say… “The higher you climb the harder you fall”? There’s a lot of truth to that saying. For ten years I devoted my heart and soul to gymnastics. I reached a high level in the sport- I worked hard, and the results showed. But I had also given up the opportunity to expose myself to things outside my sport- social life, cultural enrichment, intellectual exploration. Gymnastics was my safe little bubble that I loved and was perfectly content in. And then fate popped the fragile bubble, and I came tumbling back to earth. I had a reality check. The hard part was realizing that while I had been great at gymnastics, my skill in other activities was virtually nil. So starting from scratch was a challenge, especially as a self-conscious, insecure teenager with freshly-healed wounds. In everything I tried, I was surrounded by people my age or younger who’d had years to master their craft. I tried not to compare myself to others, but there were days when the voice in my head would get the better of me, demoralizing and belittling my beginner self. During these days, I’d have to repeat to myself aloud, “You were a great gymnast. You were a great gymnast. You were a great gymnast.” The point of this wasn’t to toot my own horn, but rather, to remind myself that if I could be a great gymnast, I could be great at anything I set my mind to.
So I gave synchro, diving, contortion, and jazz/lyrical a good try. I worked hard at practice, gave it my best shot. My gymnastics background enabled me to pick up things very fast. Ultimately, however, I couldn’t connect with any of these sports.
I found Latin dance on Valentines Day of this year, and I fell in love with this art from day one. Little did I know of the incredible journey that lay ahead of me, the crazy world I was about to venture into. Latin dance changed my life. Not only have I found a new passion and means of expression through Latin, but I’ve also gained something greater– a diverse community of people who share a love of dance. Through Latin, I’ve forged bonds and invaluable friendships with some of the smartest and most artistic people I’ve met in my life, including other young dancers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, and scientists. I love how this art has the power to draw so many people of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds together.
For all these reasons, I plan to continue dancing for a long time- as long as my body permits. I will be very honest with you guys- while I still aim to become a doctor, I equally long to become a world champion Latin dancer. I know, I know. Some naysayers may say I’m an unrealistic dreamer, that it’ll never happen. And I concede (with pride) that I am indeed a dreamer. But I strongly believe that no one who’s ever reached success in anything played it safe. Sacrifices were made and risks were taken for successful athletes, CEO’s, artists, inventors, scientists and doctors to find success.
So here I stand, at the close of 2015, excited for the future and what the fates have in store for me. 2016 is the year my fellow high school seniors and I leave home for college to chase our dreams and make our impact on this world. Whether we like it or not, the most exciting time of our lives is a flip of a page away! I have no idea where I will be or what I’ll be doing a year from today, and it is this– the great, vast unknown– that makes this time so scary yet utterly exciting for rising college freshmen like myself.
I look forward to taking you guys along every step of the way of my crazy journey ahead!!
Happy New Year everyone!