Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Chalked Up"-Have you read it?

Lately I have been busy reading the book, "Chalked Up", a memoir of gymnast, Jennifer Sey. Not only is the book an honest reflection of how elite gymnasts had and are still being trained today but much of the story mirrors my own life. The way Jennifer writes of her personal struggles, partially caused by outside influences and partially by her own personality, brought back some of my own heart-breaking memories growing up in a gym.

As a child, gymnastics was what I did for fun. I never could seem to get enough of it; I always wanted to be in the gym. There is nothing compared to the feeling of flipping off of a 10 ft. bar and landing as soft as a cat on a mat beneath, the magic in being able to stick a dismount from a four inch wide, 4 ft. tall beam, the feeling of springs beneath you, throwing you high into the air. Everything about gymnastics is both exhilerating and yet terrifying. It is definintly the most captivating sport for any dare-devil child, but gymnastics is no longer defined by women. Once you hit puberty and learn that the body is not as limber as it was as a child, gymnastics becomes something different altogether. For some, it can become a nightmarish sport of eating disorders, constant training, injuries and addiction. Even though I never reached elite, or even level 10 for that matter; the psychological, emotional and physical issues Jennifer writes of, have all been a part of my past and still linger with me to this present day.

There is one anecdote she writes of, at the beginning of part III, in her memoir that particularly tore at my heart. The reason soley being that I too, have felt exactly as she did in my own life. In fact, I am still recovering from my own personal experiences of being a high level and considerably good gymnast, to literally feeling as though I had fallen from the face of the gymnastics world. Her story writes of returning to one of her earlier gyms, somehow still holding onto what was left of her Olympic dream yet inside she knew that there was no way of recovering, both mentally and physically, to get her back to where she left off at. She discusses her struggle with trying to remain thin at that time as well as feeling her own personal desire of continuing gymnastics thwarted by everything she has been through.

The short three pages of this peice of the story also sums up exactly the way I felt after my first initial wrist injury in the year, 2008. Both she and I will forever have a deep wound in our lives, the realization that nothing went as planned and we can never go back to the way things were. She couldn't let go, like I wouldn't let go. The desire to be the best was much to great, etched in both of our hearts and minds. Erasing it continues to be a struggle in my life, as I'm sure it is in her own. The difference I think is that even though both of us remained sucked in our addiction to the sport of gymnastics, she eventually let go when she realized she couldn't go back. I cling to the sport still, at first it was to solidify in myself that I could get back to where I left off at. Now that desire has left, I have come to terms with my heart and my body. I cannot go back to the way it was, but I can still have fun in gymnastics. I know now why I fell in love with gymnastics. It wasn't soley to become an Olympic athlete or to be the best, instead it is that incredible feeling of being able to do what so few can do, the joy of flying through the air, denying gravity of it's existance for a brief moment. Gymnastics is the one peice of heaven that I can hold on earth during my lifetime and I'm gonna hang on to it for as long as I can.


  1. I love love love love love this book. Even if you aren't an elite, it doesn't mean you didn't work just as hard or love it just as much. It took me years to learn to love gymnastics again after a painful goodbye. I still do it now, at the ripe ol' age of 36. I might love doing it now even more than I did as a kid.

  2. That's impressive that you are still doing it at 36 years of age! Thanks for commenting! :)