In 7 days and about 3 hours I'll be twenty-five years old (I may not look it or act it, but that's okay!). I may not be that old or wise, but you'd be amazed at what you learn in the few years after leaving high school. So what have we thus far?
Life lessons are not always pleasant. In fact, you're not going to like this first one. It is perhaps one of the worst life lessons: your mom (and maybe even your dad) is almost always right. You love her, but does she always have to be right? Yep.
She'll tell you not to move in with your best friend or go through whatever cockamamie plan you cook up, but you'll do it anyway. If you're like me, you move in with your best friend, you fight over when to pay the bills, he starts dating a very messy girl who uses your dishes and doesn't wash them, and pretty soon you don't have a best friend.
Now, the worst part is, your mom was right. The second worst part is no matter how many times you read this you will concoct a stupid plan, your mom will let you go through with it, and about two years later you'll ask her why she let you do it, and she will say something like this: "Well, you were going to do it anyway. I figured I'd let you learn the hard way." That's right. She will pull the learning-from-your-mistakes-card. Just remember, it's all because she loves you. I promise.
Only pierce your earlobes. The other ones usually get infected. I mean it! Don't be like me. A man had to remove one of my ear piercings with a pair of needle nose pliers.
This one's four-fold, incredibly important, and a little (maybe a lot) complicated.
If you're like me, your parents made you participate in some sport or activity as a child. My mom signed me up for gymnastics because I thought Shannon Miller was the coolest chick ever. I'm sure there was more logic to her choice, but that's not what's important. You see, I spent about ten or so years doing gymnastics with the coolest man ever: Leroy. When I joined team, my mom made me do tumbling (she had her reasons which again are not important) instead of all around. I was devastated. She totally crushed my Olympic dreams. But alas, I tumbled for a great seven years, and in those years I learned more than I ever thought possible...*
a. Some of you have probably heard this before: don't wear a hair-tie on your wrist. I missed out on a epic tumbling win because of a hair-tie. Neither Leroy nor I have ever forgotten this. We probably never will. So, seriously, don't wear a hair-tie unless it's in your hair.
b. Now, I'm not sure of Leroy remembers this one or not... if he ever reads this he'll probably yell at me because this was almost as devastating as the hair-tie incident. It was the night before a national qualifier, and I was craving a bowl of ice cream. I had my ice cream, but only after I dropped the entire gallon on my foot. Miraculously, I only hurt my toe, but you wouldn't believe what a difference a toe makes. My toe hurt, but I still tumbled, mighty well I must say. But the judges said my foot wasn't turned enough to be considered a double full. I still don't believe them, but nonetheless, it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't dropped the gallon of ice cream on my foot.
So, if you want ice cream the night before a meet, for the love of tumbling, have someone else get it for you.
c. Keep some tissue you in your gym bag. When I get angry, I cry. So, when I had a bad warm-up session before a meet, I cried. Do you know what happens when you cry? Your nose gets stuffy... mix that with tumbling, and you end up with snot coming out of your nose while you're trying to make a perfect pass down the strip. Thankfully, I caught my snot, and I even stuck my pass (and that almost never happened!)! Now, this might be funny, but it's totally gross. If I'd had some tissue to blow my nose, I would have been snot and embarrassment free.
d. You learn a lot from Leroy, tumbling, and gymnastics. After dropping a gallon of ice cream on your foot, you know not to do it the next day. However, there are things you learn but don't quite understand until several weeks, months, or years later. Whether you're a tumbler or an all-arounder, you aren't just learning how to do crazy flips and tricks--you're learning life lessons.
Before we can understand the life lessons learned from hanging out with Leroy, you need a back story.
I remember the day I quit tumbling team. I remember where I was sitting, where Leroy was sitting. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done--I loved tumbling, and I loved Leroy. I'd dedicated my life to this wonderful sport, and I had no choice but to give it up. I never told anyone the real reason I quit, at least not until recently.
I was an advanced tumbler, and my favorite first pass was a barani, whip, full, full, front. Unfortunately, a year before I quit team, I lost my full and my double-full. I never re-gained my full, and I was forced to get my double-back ready for competition. I'd worked on it for years, but never too seriously. I finally had it ready, and then one day I got lost. We all get lost in the air... it just happens sometimes. So, I tried again, got lost again, and somehow managed to bite my knee. I still have the little tooth-mark shaped scar. I was almost seventeen, and I had no idea why I was falling apart. It was as if I was regressing.
Only now do I understand what happened. My body had changed. I was growing up, and my brain didn't know how to adjust my skill set to my new body. Some people's brain and new bodies learn to communicate, but mine never did. So, after a year of not having a full and constantly worrying my brain would say double-full or layout, and my body would just keep turning, losing my double-back was the last straw. It was too mentally taxing. So, what is the life lesson? Well, it's a bit complicated, but I'll try to sum it up as best as I can...
There is life after tumbling. In fact, as I said before, tumbling and gymnastics aren't just about how well you can flip or do a beam routine. You learn self-discipline, you learn how to be independent, you learn to never give up, and you learn there is a difference between giving up and knowing what's best for you.
I didn't give up or quit. I did what was best for me--rather than go insane or continue to hurt myself, I took the discipline, the independence, and the positive attitude I gained from tumbling and spending time with Leroy and applied to other parts of my life.
I finished high school at the top of my class, I completed a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree, and now I'm a part-time instructor at a community college. However, life isn't perfect. I suffer from clinical depression, fibromyalgia, and I've already started to develop osteoarthritis. None of this makes life easy, and it certainly doesn't help my search and desire for a full-time job. I cannot let any of this stop me though. No matter how hard it is to get out of bed, I don't give up. I find a way to get out of bed and continue on with life because despite my health issues and trouble finding a job, I love life--I love my part-time job, I have a wonderful family, I love my husband who ever so gracefully puts up with my idiosyncrasies, and most of all I think of what my mom and Leroy would tell me.
For years Leroy told me to stay positive and never give up, and my mom continues to remind me of this. In fact, she says life never gives you an obstacle you can't overcome, and the toughest ones usually make you a stronger, more resilient person. So, as Leroy recently told me, stay positive, work hard, and something good will happen. It may not be when you want it, but eventually it will happen. You just have to be patient.
So, every time Leroy yells at you or asks to see your report card, remember he's not being mean. He's just preparing you for life.
*These life lessons apply regardless of your sport or activity.