It all started on a Friday night when my parents and I were having a discussion about when I would be able to return to gymnastics.
“DAD, can you please just let me go? I have already been out for soooo long. The longer I stay out, the farther behind I will fall.” I was thinking about how far ahead all the girls at my gym were probably getting. I tried to hold back my tears, but I felt my vision start to blur. My tears started to fall from my eyes like rain from a rainstorm.
“Honey, you aren’t going to be able to go for the rest of the school year because of the school day care that he is going to be having during the day” my dad said. I was so upset that I couldn’t even talk. I leaned back in my chair and shut my eyes. At that moment, I forgot about the whole pandemic and visualized myself in the gym tumbling and swinging on the bars like a monkey flinging around a tree branch. “Isabella. ISABELLA. I-S-A-B-E-L-L-A!” All of a sudden I had been pulled back into the present. I quickly realized my mom had been talking to me. “Y……ya….yes” I managed to mumble. “We know this is frustrating, but this is the choice we are making. It is going to keep everyone safe” said my mom. I felt a lump start to form in my throat. I asked to be excused from the conversation and went up into my room for awhile to process what had just happened. I laid on my bed, closed my eyes, and the next thing I knew I was having a flashback. I was at the last meet I competed before the pandemic began. I remembered being so nervous. My palms were sweaty, and I felt butterflies swarm around in my stomach. It was the last event of the meet and I was on floor. I slowly and gracefully made my way out onto the floor after the judge saluted me. I felt my heart pounding out of my chest. Everyone was cheering me on. “LET’S GO ISABELLA! YOU GOT IT! C’MON!” My teammates yelled, as I was waiting for my music to start. I could even clearly remember the familiar smell of the floor. It always smelled like dirty feet. As I turned my head slowly, I watched one of the other gymnasts jump onto the bar and the chalk residue slowly fell onto the mats on the ground. By the time I refocused and was correcting my posture, I realized my music still hadn’t started. I thought: What is taking so long? Caught off guard, my music finally started after what felt like an hour. I started my routine and felt all eyes on me.
I was interrupted by my door creaking open. My mom came in to ask if I wanted to come back downstairs to continue our conversation. I reluctantly agreed. We continued our conversation where we left off when my mom then brought up something that I thought she would never consider…
“Maybe it is time for you to move on” my mom started.
“What, NO!!! I was speechless. There is no way I am leaving Next Dimension. I can’t leave Russ and all my friends” I yelled out.
“OK, but what are your goals in gymnastics?” my parents questioned.
“Well” I started. “I want to get into a D1 gymnastics college on a full sports scholarship” I replied.
“Ok, just think about it” my mom said. We ended the conversation for the night because I felt myself getting emotional again.
The next day…
I had been thinking about what my mom brought up the previous night. Next Dimension was my home, but would I realistically be able to reach my dreams and full potential at that gym? I started to think about the top gym in Connecticut called JAG. JAG is super competitive and they have had a lot of gymnasts that have and are getting a full scholarship. Plus one of my friends now goes to that gym after previously being at Next Dimension.
Later that day, I told my mom I had been considering moving on. “Now, this isn’t a decision that you make in one day. It takes time. If you are serious about this, maybe make a pro and con list,” my mom suggested. I went along with the idea and started to work on the list.
A few hours later, I had finished the list and I had noticed that there were more pros for switching to JAG than there were cons. The only problem was that the two con’s were the most important ones. Leaving behind my friends and all of my coaches.
“Mom. MOM. M-O-M,” I yelled trying to get her attention. “I made the list like you suggested. I am starting to think that maybe it is time to move on,” I said.
Out of nowhere, Macarthy’s mom (the girl that switched to JAG) texted my mom asking how I was doing and that Macarthy was really happy there and that she thought I would be a really good addition to their team. “Isabella” my mom shouted, “You will never guess who just texted me!” For some reason, I found myself covered in goosebumps. I tried to think of every person I knew. Before i was finished, my mom cut me off and blurted out “Becky!” “Huh?” I questioned. “Macarthy’s mom just texted me” she responded. I caught myself thinking this was too coincidental, and maybe this was a sign that it was time to move on. While my mom called Becky to get more information, I stood around pacing with excited nervousness.
A few days later…
My parents called the coach at JAG. He said he saw videos of me, that I have incredible potential and would likely only reach 75% if I stayed at my current gym. And I was invited to join his team without the usual required tryout. And on top of that, my parents decided that I would be able to go to the gym the following week to practice with the team in order to test it out and see if it felt like the right fit. I was on top of the moon. I kept shaking my head in disbelief wondering if I was really hearing all of this correctly. It was as good as it could get during this pandemic that made me feel like I was in a cage at home. This was a big deal that they were going to let me go back for the week because I had been kept out of the gym for the spring and summer.
The next week finally came after what felt like forever, and I was on my way up to practice. I remember feeling so nervous. Luckily I knew one of the gymnasts, but that didn’t change the fact that I was nervous. I ended up loving it the very first day. By the time I left that practice, feeling completely exhausted but motivated, I knew this was going to be my new gym. At the end of the week we made it official. I was a JAG team gymnast. I couldn’t wait to start my new gymnastics path. We told my old coach and he was really upset, but told me I would always have a place in his gym.
Even though I left some important people behind, I did what was best for me. And I am following my dreams, which is what I have always been told to do. Friends are important, but I realize my true friends from gymnastics are always going to be my friends and support me regardless of where I am. It feels scary to go outside of your comfort zone, but taking risk and being open to new experiences can be the difference in achieving your dreams or not.