Growing up, sports were big in my town. More specifically, football and gymnastics were huge.  My high school had incredibly gifted football players, like Tony Siragusa who went on to play for The Baltimore Ravens and win superbowl rings. The girl’s gymnastics team was filled with equally amazing gymnasts, some of whom later competed in the Olympics!  I was not one of those girls.

Miraculously my freshman year, I made the team! The balance beam became my competition event, probably because it was the event at which I sucked the least.

Nervously approaching the beam for my first competition routine, I put on my serious gymnast face and presented myself to the judges in that painstaking, arched back, arms in the air stance that gymnasts are required to do prior to any routine. So far so good. “They must give at least two points for my fabulous stance,” I thought. All eyes were on me. The room was radiating anticipatory silence.

I mounted the beam fairly well. Amazed that I actually landed on the four inch death apparatus, I hooked my thumbs together as one and arched into a back-bend. Bonk!  As my hands made contact with the beam my spindly arms gave out, and I fell to the floor smashing my head on the wooden beam of torture in the process. The room gasped.

Stunned, I sat on the mat. The first rule of serious gymnastics is that spectators are not to speak during a competition. Neither are the competing gymnasts, especially during their own routines. Standing to my feet, I slowly turned to face the team. With my hands out to the side pulsating each syllable I said, “Whoa-ho-ho!” roughly translated, “Did you see that?!” The team was frantically gesturing for me to both shut up and to get back up on the beam. In a serious gymnastics town, apparently no one checks to see if a team member is injured. The games must go on.

I remounted the beam. I did a cartwheel. I fell off. I did a split leap. I fell off. I did a pirouette. I fell off. I did a pose. I fell off.  I finally dismounted. I fell off. At least falling off  is allowed in the dismount.  I returned to my seat next to my teammates, and unenthusiastically awaited my score. It never came.

As the meet moved on to the uneven bar routines, I quietly asked a teammate why I still hadn’t received my score. She whispered in my ear, “When you get below a five you have to walk to the table to pick up your own score.”  Ouch.

 I dragged myself to the judge’s table. Turns out I was right about one thing. They do give you two points for the painstaking, arched back, arms in the air stance, and apparantly .9 for showing up. I got a 2.9.

The next year, I joined the choir. Much safer for everyone.

Life Lesson #1: Sometimes when you are down, it’s okay to stay down.

Life Lesson #2: Don’t try to be someone else. We all have unique gifts.

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