I was sitting in my room watching this past NCAA Gymnastics Championship when it hit me: so many of the seniors got a sendoff as they were exiting their time as an athlete in the sport. They were able to prepare themselves for the end. They were celebrated and hugged and got to stand on the podium as the confetti fell. They crafted beautiful Instagram posts reflecting on their career as the end was always in sight. And of course, they should have a sendoff; they’ve given their college years to the team and most of their lives to the sport. A lot of athletes get something like this when their athletic career ends, or at the very least they get to choose when that end will come. However, it hit me in particular because at the end of the day, I got neither.
If you’re not familiar with me, I was a gymnast from the ages of three to sixteen, and competed in the sport for six years. I had a deep love and passion for gymnastics that got cut short very abruptly when I sustained a second concussion over the span of eight months. I filmed a YouTube video to tell the story of how I got the injury, how it affected me, and how it has changed my life to this day, so check that out for more background information on the end of my gymnastics career. But once the doctor told me that returning to gymnastics meant risking permanent brain damage in the future, that was that. My thirteen years in gymnastics came to a close in a small doctors office in the middle of Connecticut. I had no ceremony, no sendoff, no grand finale to one of the most important chapters I’ve experienced. Instead, I got a doctor looking at me with pity and a hell of a climb when it came to healing.
It’s been a little over five years since it happened, but it still amazes me a little bit. I mean, do we ever consider that when we invest years, decades of our lives into something that it could just crumble right before our eyes with no warning? It’s quite the shock, to say the least. I’m not writing this post for people to feel badly for me. It was an unfortunate situation, but this whole project is about reflecting. Not everything in life is going to work out, smooth sailing. Not even close. This is one of those instances, and while it isn’t the #positivity you see everywhere nowadays, it is real life. It’s part of my story and it’s worth mentioning and honoring and speaking out into the world. The Get Honest Project is an anti-highlight reel, but my hope is that by bringing this all to the surface, a more radiant form of beauty than my Instagram page can offer will shine through.
At the end of the day, gymnastics burned me out, exhausted me, made me cry, and pushed me to all of my limits, but it was my first love. It taught me invaluable lessons like commitment, determination, working for what you want, teamwork, perseverance, and passion. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it would have been lovely if that end of a chapter was my choice or a natural ending. I would have loved to get something like I saw on the TV screen watching the NCAA Championship. But I didn’t, and while I can wish it could be different, it’s okay that it’s not. That end led to beautiful beginnings that have catapulted me to where I am now, and I love this place. I’ve made peace with that ending and see how it has served me long-term.
However, ever since the end of my gymnastics career, I’ve this deep inner feeling that I have unfinished business in the sport. I’ve had these dreams every so often on a consistent basis, popping up when I least expect them:
I never got to perform that new floor routine in competition. I think it still haunts me to this day, as though I still have a whole lot of unfinished business in the sport. Sometimes I will dream that I’m back in the gym, performing the skills I used to love and being surrounded by my coaches and teammates as though I never left. There are times in these dreams that I’m aware of the fact that I did leave and yet I’m thrown back into competition and have to throw together a routine. But gymnastics still weaves its way through my mind, coming through in the subconscious where it can’t in my day-to-day. They’re the constant marvels that I can’t seem to shake, the questions that, unlike some, will never quite be answered.
I wrote that passage as a part of my capstone senior project for college in which I wrote a memoir about my time in gymnastics. These dreams have somewhat haunted me since I left the gym for the last time, and I’ve begun to take them to mean that perhaps the chapter hasn’t quite closed, but instead it’s taken a hiatus. I’ve taught some gymnastics classes, but I think I’d like to be part of this incredible sport long-term in some way, and I’m open to whatever that way may be. Perhaps it’s coaching, or judging, or blogging about certain happenings within the elite scene. Sometimes we have things engrained into our souls that just won’t quit. Gymnastics is a part of mine, and that love still lives. Maybe the future is flipping, too.
Much Love, Quinn
Crazy cat lady. Exploratory writer. Much love.