I’ll never forget my first love. It was true, it was special and it was meaningful. It all started when I was a little girl watching TV, I was watching the Olympics for the first time. I was mesmerized by the flips, twists, leaps, turns and shiny rhinestone embellished leotards. In this moment, I knew I wanted to be a gymnast. I begged my parents to let me take gymnastics classes, but there was nowhere for me to learn unless we wanted to drive 2 hours to get there.  I didn’t get my chance until I was 12 years old when we moved to Maine. There was a gym 15 minutes from where we lived.  So with much hesitation, my parents agreed to sign me up for classes. After my first class, I fell madly in love. From that day I would eat, sleep and breathe gymnastics. It’s all I would ever think about. In the gym, I would be working my butt off to learn new skills and advance my strength and flexibility. Outside of the gym, I’d be watching tutorial videos on the skills that were giving me trouble or I’d be watching videos of my favorite gymnasts. This love affair continued for years.

Callused hands and rips were my badges of honor. New leotards and Nike pro’s were more important that everyday clothes. Summer was spent in the gym, International Gymnastics camp, tumbling in the sand at the beach or in the backyard flipping in the grass and bouncing on the trampoline.  All of which was filled with the same handful of friends, my teammates.

Although, it wasn’t all smooth sailing by any means. There were many hardships and it got to the point where I would leave the gym sweaty, sore and full of negativity. Some days I just wanted to quit and give up. Gymnastics pushed me to my limits both physically and mentally. Through injuries and mental blocks. It became more of a love-hate relationship, almost like an addiction that I couldn’t kick. The highs are incredible and beautiful but the lows are torturously low and what’s worse is that they can happen within minutes of each other.

Through the heartache, blood, sweat and tears I couldn’t imagine my life without gymnastics. Falling 99 times was worth it if I landed on my feet at least once. Starting gymnastics late would always dwell on my mind, there was so much I wanted to do and achieve. There’s so much negativity surrounding age in this sport, but when I would see women in their late 20’s and early 30’s competing in the Olympics it gave me hope.

I have that day engraved in memory, the day gymnastics broke my heart. I was only 17 and I thought my life was great. I was happy, just started college. I didn’t I think I would get my heart broken into a million little, irreparable pieces quite so soon. It felt like I had lost a part of myself. Even today I’m still in denial that my gymnastics career is over. I’m thankful for the lessons, the good times and the bad times, I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today without it.

Published by Jessie Sims