Hey guys! Today is Sunday, December 23, 2018. It’s 8:09pm. I just finished a hot pot dinner with my family and some family friends. Now, it’s time to fill you guys in on what’s been happening these past couple days! I’ve been trying to keep up with my Blogmas series, but I’ve just been so busy spending time with old friends and keeping busy with fun activities that I find myself coming home late each night and wanting nothing more than to go straight to bed.
So, let’s see where we’re at. Okay, rewind to yesterday, Saturday 12/22/18. I woke up later than usual– almost noon. I suppose I had gone to bed late the previous night, which is why my sleep schedule went out of whack. After speeding through my morning routine and eating breakfast (well, it was more like a brunch), I caught the 1:30pm train to San Jose, where I decided to visit the gym once more. I arrived at the gym and caught up with the parents and fellow gymnasts, including a girl who I used to compete against! I did a bit of stretching and coaching. At around 3:45pm, I reunited with my former teammate’s mother, who I had not seen since two summers ago. She was essentially my “gymnastics mom” back when I was still training in San Francisco. She would always drive me and her daughter to the gym and travel with us to competitions. She kindly offered to drive me all the way home from the gym, just like the good ol’ days!
After I got home, I headed to the local fitness center, as I figured that if I were to become a full-time coach after college, I’d need to gain back my flexibility so I could demonstrate skills to the little girls. Another thing I’m planning on doing after college– I’ve decided that I want to become a rhythmic gymnastics judge! I know. WILD, right? In all honesty, it’s really not too difficult to become an RG judge. Technically, you don’t even have to have been a gymnast to judge! You just need to read over the RG code of points and pass an exam to be a certified judge (there may be a step or two I’m missing… but that’s the general gist of it). Being a judge would be a great way for me to put my gymnastics experience to good use. And it will reconnect me with a community that is near and dear to my heart. You may be wondering why I fell off the face of the rhythmic gymnastics Earth, once I got injured. The truth is, I was hurting so much emotionally after the injury, I couldn’t bear to watch former teammates and competitors continue to pursue the sport that I loved so much, but was unable to do. I was grieving the loss of a past life. And people have different ways of grieving. I think I needed time away from the community to fully come to peace with my injury and close that chapter of my life. But now I realize that just because I am no longer a gymnast doesn’t mean I have to cut all ties with the RG community. These past couple days spent at the gym really showed me how happy rhythmic gymnastics made me. I felt as if I was reconnecting with a piece of my soul that had been missing for a long time. In the past, going back to the gym would have broken me down emotionally, as any reminder of my past life– a life I was forced to leave behind prematurely– would evoke feelings of bitterness and regret. But, as they often say, time is the best medicine. And I’ve expanded and developed my identity in so many dimensions since leaving behind my sport, 6 years ago. I am okay, now. More than okay. And it is now and only now, when I am fully at peace with my past, that I am ready to reunite with old friends, coaches, and judges, and take on a different role in the world of rhythmic.
So, back to my Saturday night. I got home from the gym, ate dinner, then sat down at my desk to do some writing. I decided to get started on a new passion-project, namely, creating a new blog dedicated to members of the competitive athletics community (athletes, parents, coaches, sports’ enthusiasts, etc.). The blog is called “The Athlete’s Corner”, and it is on this platform that I share my own experience as a former gymnast and all the triumphs, hardships, and lessons learned from my life as a competitive athlete. The fact of the matter is, being a high-level athlete is HARD. Athletes are often treated as physical machines that are expected to perform to superhuman standards. There’s a lot of abuse, both physical and psychological, in the world of athletics, and because many athletes are taught to never admit weakness or show emotion (it’s all part of the “game”), the mental health stigma in that world is so pervasive. My goal with this new blog is to chip away at that stigma and to urge athletes to take care of their mental and emotional health, instead of silently suffering at the hands of abusive coaches and crippling pressure and perfectionism. For my ten years in gymnastics, I struggled to find my voice. I was effectively silenced by authoritarian coaches and the system as a whole. Every part of my being– my body, my thoughts, my emotions– were at the mercy of my coaches and the external validation of competitive results. In training, I did as I was told, with no objection. If my coach praised me, I felt happy. If I got high marks at competition, I was elated. If my coach yelled at me, I grew frustrated, angry at myself, and sometimes despondent. If I delivered a subpar routine at competition, I’d internalize the “failure” and ruthlessly blame and bully myself for my ineptitude. As much as I loved gymnastics, I don’t hesitate to say that the sport is corrupt and abusive and oftentimes beats young, healthy, happy girls to a pulp– both physical and psychologically.
Wow, what a digression. No wonder I made this new blog– I have SO much to say about my time as an athlete. It’s as if all ten years’ worth of pent-up thoughts and emotions are being released onto the computer screen!
So Saturday night, I began this new blog. I stayed up until about 3am writing and editing and perfecting my website. It was crazy, how invigorated and passionate I felt while writing my first introductory post. The words just spilled out, and the blog post wrote itself. I have such high hopes for my new blog. Truly. I believe we all have a purpose on this Earth, and I think I have found mine– to heal broken athletes, who are only human, like the rest of us. This is why I am so sure of studying sports psychology. There are SO many important issues surrounding mental health in the world of athletics. It’s essential that top athletes have a strong emotional support system to survive the crazy pressure of competing with the weight of the world on their shoulders. And, more importantly, athletes transitioning out of their sport and into the real world should not have to face their struggles alone. Because there are many, many challenges during this transition. The process of rebuilding one’s identity. Finding new meaning in life outside of sports. Facing disillusionment after disillusionment. Learning to live inside a new body. Dealing with the aftermath of years of psychological abuse. Developing a voice. My transition out of gymnastics was the most difficult thing I’ve ever faced in my life. I was depressed for most of my high school years, before I finally told myself, “Enough is enough. I refuse to live like this any longer.” So I sought out a life-changing therapist who helped me through my grief and ultimately write a new life chapter.
Okay, guys. That’s enough for one post. If you made it this far, I know you’re one of my most loyal readers.