1. Had terrible mental game coupled with an insatiable love of the sport.
    Practice perfectly, perform like I've never seen a balance beam before in my life.
  2. Fell the most.
    Every single competition. One time my coaches bartered with the judges over a certain score of mine just so I could qualify to the sectionals meet.
  3. Never made it to the top of the podium.
    Or anywhere near it.
  4. Became so afraid of certain skills I broke rules to avoid them.
    Fractured both big toes landing a handspring front tuck on floor, so I competed a pass that didn't fulfill the requirement. Terrified of doing a flyaway out of a giant, so I put in a tap swing because I decided I should. Avoiding doing backwards tumbling for almost six months, so I found artful ways to hide this from my coaches: fake injuries, frequent bathroom breaks, general wandering.
  5. Surprised everyone when I conquered skills they saw as insurmountable.
    Spent one summer hustling every day to get my back handspring on high beam. It was truly the impossible made possible.
  6. Didn't see failure as a stopping point.
    Try. Try again. Try harder. Try differently.
  7. Lives inside me forever.
    Ambitious and unstoppable. Physically capable. Mentally tough. A little girl who never saw an obstacle she couldn't rework to overcome, even if it meant bending the rules until they looked like a rhythmic gymnast stretching. She reminds me to keep going in all I pursue, not because I'm the best, but because I love what I do. And even when I'm tired, or defeated, I wake up and try again. For her. For me. For passion that doesn't need tangible success to thrive. The victory is in the doing.