I sat alone.

Six girls waited patiently to find out who would qualify for the Regional Team that would continue on to Nationals. At last, the fifth and final name was called and it wasn’t mine. I could feel tears beginning to well up in my eyes, as I struggled to maintain composure. I was distraught and shocked that I had not been called up. I could feel the eyes of the audience staring at me, for I was singled out. In that moment, I broke down.

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I sat alone.

Looking up, I saw the backs of my fellow competitors that stood in a horizontal line in front of me, smiling and waving at the crowd. Their hair pulled up into tight buns that sat like crowns atop their heads, covered in glitter and doused in hairspray. Everyone was cheering and clapping as moms and dads pushed forward to get a picture of their daughter on the podium.

I sat alone.

I had been doing rhythmic gymnastics for 11 years. For those who don’t know what rhythmic gymnastics is, we use hoops, ribbons and a ball to “dance” around the floor. For those of us who do know what rhythmic is, we know what it is like to give up birthday parties and play dates in elementary school. We know what it is like to train for 25 hours, 6 days a week. We know what it is like to give up sleep because we stay at gym until 9, and then go home to do homework. We know what pain is and we also know what success is. At the tender age of 14, I had become accustomed to success.

Yet, this time, I sat alone.

I was angry with everyone in that moment, but more than anything I was angry with myself. I knew I needed to prove to myself that I could not only make the team, but also come out on top. That following summer I joined a new team, where I worked day and night dedicating my time and putting everything I had into training. Came the competitive season and I not only made the Regional Team, but I came in first that year. I was eligible for the Visa National Championships in Dallas, Texas. I practiced all summer, giving up my time with friends and family to live in the gym. My hours increased from 25 to 36 in a hot gym with no air conditioning. When the time came for Dallas, I felt more than prepared. I was confident in my work. I placed 18th in the country my sophomore year. Junior year I moved up to 11th place nationally, qualifying for the United States Elite Team.

Gymnastics has been my escape and my pride. I enjoy what I do and would never take back any struggle I have experienced. I learned to remain strong-minded no matter the adversity, and I learned this by sitting alone.

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