I was 8 years old when I started gymnastics. Mary Lou Retton had just vaulted her way to a household name, and all I wanted to wear were stars and stripes.
Apparently after watching some girls on the play ground, I taught myself how to do a front handspring and proceeded to do them all up and down the sidewalk at recess every day. Next thing I know, my mom is signing me up for gymnastics.
Pretty much from day one at the gym, Jenny and I became the best of friends. We ate, breathed and slept gymnastics. I couldn't tell you the color of paint on our walls because they were covered in gymnastics posters. My dad made me a balance beam. Jenny got a single rail bar, and the extra space over her garage became our gym away from the gym. We acquired mats and little trampolines. And we dreamed.
We had our dream all mapped out. We would make the 1996 Olympic Team because we would be 18 and that just seemed like a perfect age to go to the Olympics. We would tie for the all-around gold medal in gymnastics because that's just how best friends roll. And we would get lots and lots of perfect 10's on our way to the top of that podium.
When we're young, the whole world is in front of us and the future is ours to make. When we're young, we dare to dream big and crazy. When we're young, we attempt to chase those dreams.
In junior high, Jenny decided to move on from gymnastics. After growing 6 inches in a year and getting very ill, I got real with myself, too. I was a mediocre gymnast at best. While I passionately loved the sport, I knew I wasn't going to be the next Mary Lou. But there was just something burning deep inside that kept pushing. I tried my hand at several other sports over the next two years but nothing was as exciting as gymnastics had been.
One day my mom ran into an ex-gymnast friend's mom. She came home and told me that my friend had started this diving thing and was excelling at it. She thought it would be good for me to at least try it out.
When we walked onto the pool deck, I was sold. Gymnastics into the water = B-I-N-G-O! I threw myself into the sport with a vengeance. It was like something inside of me was being unleashed. I couldn't get enough of it. We'd be at the pool for hours, and after workout I just wanted to play around some more. Then I started having those Olympic dreams again, just in a different sport.
I guess the point of my little story here is that we should never stop dreaming. No, dreams don't always workout the way you plan them. I didn't tie for the 1996 Olympic gymnastics gold medal with my best friend. But sometimes dreams have a way of unfolding in way you could never have imagined. I did stand on top of the Olympic podium though, four years later on my own in a different sport. And at that same Olympics, I saw two friends tie for a gold medal in swimming.
Dream, and dream big. If it doesn't work out the way you hoped, keep dreaming. No, sometimes dreams don't come true. But I'm living proof that sometimes they do. Sweet dreams my friends; they're worth fighting for.