Confession: I am not a gymnast.

Gymnastics has always been one of my favorite sports to watch, and I’m not sure many people know this about me. As a kid, I idolized the Olympic gymnasts. There was always something incredibly mesmerizing about watching kids my age fly fluidly across bars, decorated in twists and turns, and somersault their way into a backwards bend on a beam with precision and grace. I always dreamt of becoming one of them. I always wanted to be the girl in the black leotard, hair pulled back tightly in a neat bun, gliding across a beam. I wanted to be the girl who tackled life the same way a gymnast tackled a floor routine: with precision and grace and above all, balance.

Today is my 27th birthday, and all I’ve got is this vague confession about everything I never became: I am not a gymnast.

– –

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to convince myself to meet you here in the very same place I swore over and over again I would never leave. This whole thing somehow changed for me in the years since I started it. My thoughts on your screen are symbolic, really. Like that local coffee shop you won’t dare walk past in fear that just the smell of their dark roast will bring you to your knees and back to the time when you almost made him stay. Or the dimly lit ocean side road where you sat with him outside on that cold March night and realized that this would never work out. That that road and that street light and his sullen wave in your rear view mirror were the last you’d see of him. Or the gas station that you conveniently skip past, even when you’re chugging along the highway, running on E, because it’s a reminder of a night you want so badly to forget. When his smile lit up the crisp summer night and his hand was on your knee, and you knew that you were falling — that somehow, this would be good, until suddenly, it wasn’t.

It’s been awhile. It’s been awhile since I gathered up the courage to will myself to come face to face with the thoughts in my head and put them down onto this screen. Because once they’re out, once they escape that secret spot in my head and flow through my hands and onto your screens, they’re concrete. And what else do I have to keep for myself if everything that’s spanning the universe in my mind is written out for you to read?

But today, on my 27th birthday, I gathered the energy and the courage and the will to stand up and raise my little white flag and tell you that I never became that girl. I never became the gymnast. I never became the girl who tackled life with precision, grace, and balance, and I’m okay with that.

– –

Here’s what 26 was like for me:

26 was me, standing in that black leotard, hair pulled back in a bun, walking on a balance beam, gleaming with pride as I tip-toed across, collecting medal after medal. 26 was me, gliding through my routine, but feeling a little off kilter. 26 was me, trying my hardest against the wind — trying my hardest to learn balance. I spent most of the year walking that beam with the same determination of a toddler taking her first steps.

No one ever warns you. No one ever gives you a heads up and fills you in on this whole growing up thing. And it’s funny isn’t it? You get a book detailing What to Expect When You’re Expecting. You get inundated with syllabi at the beginning of the semester outlining what is to come in the upcoming 15 weeks. You are given pages of instructions describing specifically how to piece together Ikea furniture, and yet we are all faced with one universal truth: we eventually all will have to grow up, and there is no book, syllabus, or list of instructions that tell you what to expect, what to anticipate, or which turn to take.

You don’t know how badly I wish someone could have grabbed me by the shoulders and looked at me in the eyes and just told me that 26 sometimes feels a little like being 16 all over again. That you’ll sometimes feel incredibly small and unimportant, despite being surrounded by so many people who love you. That you’ll often feel misunderstood, no matter how many ways you put it or how many words you use to describe it. That you’ll go toe-to-toe with your parents and just like that, they somehow forget that their child is an adult. Because no matter how old you are, you will always be their baby. That you’ll still struggle with relationships. both romantic and not, and showing up, and deciding between how tightly you should hang on and when it’s time to let go.

26 genuinely felt a little bit like 16 did. And I’m sure if I went around the room and asked how many of you are dying to take a time machine all the way back to the age of 16, I would see idle hands stirring in your laps.

The last year of my life was as much about advancement and progression as it was about stagnation and loneliness and feeling a little bit of loss of control. It was as much about success and accomplishment and getting what I worked so very hard for, as much as it was about feeling run down and broken and tired.

26 was supposed to be it for me, though I’m not quite sure what it really means. Did it mean transition after transition, the closing of an era, and the birth of new chapters? Did it mean saying bye to people, letting go of familiarity, closing the door on the past, finishing my Master’s, diving headfirst into my career, and the continual shift in my orbit?

I’ll be honest: 26 was all of those things.

I’m not sure really what I expected. Nothing changed. There was no loud crash. No confetti. No marching band parading around me. Nothing that marked the end of an era and the beginning of the next chapter. There was dinner and margaritas and waking up the next morning to go to work. Business as usual. 

Nothing changed, and yet everything did.

And I was waiting for it. I was waiting for the bright lights and loud noises. I was waiting for something I could touch or taste or see. The change was there — it was almost tangible. I was sucker punched by it, but I didn’t see it. I couldn’t touch it. Believe me though, when I tell you, I felt it. And it swallowed me whole.

I wish someone could have told me that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel isn’t actually as bright as it seems. I wish someone told me that you can reach all the destinations you pinned on your road trip map, and sometimes, it’s still not enough. Sometimes, you throw your hands out in front of you to steady yourself, but you still lose balance. You still get tossed along the shore.

I wish someone could have told me that the grass is always greener no matter where you water it.

I’ll be honest. I have nearly everything I worked so hard for in the last three years. And my God, if life was only about the accumulation of things, I would be on top of the world. Everyone thinks it’s about the stuff. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s never about the stuff. I can fill a little glass home with all of the things that I’ve earned: a degree, a certification, a license, a diploma, a job. And trust me when I say: all the stuff is not enough.

– –

The last couple months of 26 were about giving myself permission to be human.

There were so many nights I wanted to kick myself for going home and crashing. For sitting in the eye of a storm that shouldn’t have existed. For getting defensive when people told me how lucky I was to even land a job before graduation, how they would switch spots with me in a heartbeat. For feeling selfish and ungrateful because on paper, I got what I wanted. I got what I worked hard for.

But I’m only human. I’m allowed to go home and let the night swallow me up. I’m allowed to struggle with both success and failure. I’m allowed to feel hurt. I’m allowed to be frustrated. I’m allowed to want more. I’m allowed to be human. And this is a reminder that you are too.

– –

There’s going to be a day when I forget about all of this. There’s going to come a point in my life, maybe many years down the road, when I look back on this last year and all of the mountains I climbed, and valleys I lived in, and laugh at myself for ever being so dramatic. There’s going to be a point when I look back and remind myself that despite the ever-present feeling of losing balance, it wasn’t all that bad. I knew next to nothing about anything in life, but I still did it, and survived it all in the end.

26 taught me there is so much more to this here life thing than adding a bullet point to your resume, or a comma to your salary, or a new mailing address, or an extra diploma to hang up. 26 taught me that life is less about the precision it takes to become a gymnast, and more about balance and grace and determination. It’s not about hitting that routine perfectly; it’s about getting up and doing the damn walk, no matter how strong those gusts of wind are.

I can’t predict what 27 will be about.

And maybe that’s the beauty of life. Maybe 27 will be the start of something new as I really assimilate, for the first time, into this new role in this big ol’ world we live in. Maybe I’ll spend the next year figuring out what the hell any of that even means. Maybe 27 will be scary and magical and exciting and difficult and fun and surprising.

And maybe, if I’m lucky, with a little faith in my own balance, 27 will be all of those things and so much more.

137 thoughts on “Confession: I am not a gymnast.”

  1. Happy Belated Birthday!
    Brilliantly written blog entry. You capture so many feelings to a T. I love how your writing comes alive and when I read it I can see everything unraveling right before my eyes. Great work as usual. <3

    1. I didn’t mean to hit enter…. I’ve always had better faith in odd numbers though, so I’m excited to see what 27 will bring. And you’re right, there’s something super concrete about putting things into words and posting them. There are so many thoughts whirling in my brain that I haven’t quite finished thinking through yet and can’t commit to words yet. Props to you for putting some words around it. And yet again, happy 27th.

  2. ‘It’s not about hitting that routine perfectly; it’s about getting up and doing the damn walk, no matter how strong those gusts of wind are.’
    Just what I needed tonight. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! it was a pleasure to read :) x

  3. Great post. Please add my best wishes to the belated bundle. My reply is aimed at reassuring you..that you are not alone. I too often feel 16 and you may add 40 years to that number

  4. I love your work. I sums up how i feel about my life at the moment and I’m only 19 with soooo much more to come. Some days I want to give up and others I want to persevere just to say I’ve done it. But the question I then have to ask myself is ” is it worth it?”. I think I’m about there and your blog has given me more things to think about.

    Thanks

    …. oh and belated birthday wishes!

    1. Hello! Thank you so much for taking your time to read what I wrote and commenting. I appreciate it more than words can convey. I think what I wrote can be relevant at any age. I remember being 19 and feeling so sure of what was to come, but also feeling like I had no idea what to expect. And then I remember turning 22, graduating college, and looking at the future thinking, “now what?” And then came 25, and then 27. And in between all of those years from 19 to 27, I went through this same phase that I wrote about several times. To be honest, I think we all go through these moments at varying points in our lives; sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes it’s disastrous. But the take home message from it all is that you’re only human. You are allowed to feel lost and stuck and stagnant, but don’t ever let that be the place you make a home for good. Thanks again for reading and good luck with everything. I want you to know that you are not alone in what and how you are feeling. I hope you come back to read some more! :) Xo Jackie

  5. Happy birthday Everybody has balance checks in life and you’ll find your feet eventually for a little while at least

  6. Its amazing.. How people though unknown share such similar thoughts and experiences at the same age.. It’s really nice to read this blog of yours reminds me of all my blogs over the last year.. Keep going :)

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for the sweet comment. My favorite thing about writing about personal things, is that no matter what, these feelings can be universal regardless of where you are and who you are. I will definitely be checking out your blog soon! Xo Jackie

  7. I love this. Very well put. I believe everything happens for a reason in our life. ~~~~following!!!

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  8. There is something special about the transformation both the mind and body undergo in your 20s…and you summed it up so very well with the feelings of these words “I’m allowed to struggle with both success and failure. I’m allowed to feel hurt. I’m allowed to be frustrated. I’m allowed to want more. I’m allowed to be human. And this is a reminder that you are too.” Evolution as you move forward in life can be frightening, but is incredible once you realize it is what we’re meant to do. Cheers to a great year ahead.

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for your comment and for taking the time to read. I am so glad those words resonated with you! I agree with you – growth is a lot of things – scary, uncomfortable, necessary, but it’s also incredible. Thanks for that. Xo

  9. I’m 23 and I feel like I understand this feeling completely. That no matter what, even when your older, things don’t get easier.

    1. Hi! Thanks for reading! I’m glad you can relate. I think what I wrote can be universal to any age group. Growing up, things don’t get easier at all – but there’s a profound beauty in actually tackling life as you grow. You feel more confident about the things you’re doing, and you feel a lot more sure of yourself while you’re doing it. Good luck to you. 23 is a great age!

      1. Oh, yeah. Life is hard and as long as you get through the obstacles life puts in your way, you can get through anything. And yes, it is. Difficult at times, but good nonetheless.

  10. Wow….truly inspiring blog ..love the way you presented the whole thing so beautifully. ..a wordsmith!!
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  11. well written. “I never became the gymnast. I never became the girl who tackled life with precision, grace, and balance, and I’m okay with that.” yep. you said it!
    none of us are perfect, and all this is basically – in a nutshell – life.
    happy birthday.

    1. Thanks SO much for reading! I am so glad those words resonated with you, as it was something I desperately needed to write in order to truly feel. None of us are perfect, but we’re human, and I think that’s pretty incredible. Thanks again! Xo

  12. Happy Birthday! I thought this was very honest, and I truly enjoyed reading it! I think that this is something that many people can relate to, so it was a great article! :)
    Tess

  13. Your post was on my feed this morning. I clicked onto it because my daughter IS a gymnast, lol! I kept reading, though, because I identified with where you are in your 20s, but it took me a while to get there. There’s so much growth in your 20s. Then comes the 30s where you feel like you have to finally grow up…. and there’s a lot of pain. (At least there was for me…) But I’m 42 and finally am finding some peace.

    Sounds like you are “getting it” sooner than I was.

    Looking forward to reading more of your wisdom.

    1. Hi! Wow, thanks so much for reading and for commenting. I am hopeful that walking this road of growth in my 20s-30s can translate into my writing and that my words resonate with people. Your sweet comment makes me feel like I’m doing something right. Thanks so much; I look forward to reading your blog as well! PS: I am VERY jealous of your daughter!!! :) Xo Jackie

      1. I wish I was like her, too! To be able to do back flips… My parents never got me into physical activities when I was younger. But I did get into running as an adult, so it’s never too late!

  14. Must say beautifully written . Actually i am all new to this blogging world and yours the first one i have read. so please read my blog and comment weather you liked it or not

    1. What I’ve found the older I get is exactly that – when you’re going through the motions, everything in seems to be bunched together. 22 melts right into 23, then 24, then 25, so on and so forth. But, in retrospect, the time between one age to the next seems to be just like you said – huge. Thank you for reading and commenting and thank you for your insight. Xo

  15. I can relate to this whole post. Me and you lived different 26 year old “days” but 26 was hard for me too. And no one tells you and no one really can tell you. It has to be discovered individually. I hope 27 treats us really good. Cheers!

  16. As many have commented before here about your beautiful writing and how they might be relatable to several of us out there; I want to say it again one more time. I found it very relatable to the very moment of me reading your post today. I loved the sentence “Nothing changed, and yet everything did”. Anyway thank you and I wish you the best strength for whatever comes with new age!

  17. Yet! If you want to become a gymnast nothing can stop you…not even your age! I am 29 and yesterday I became a blogger. I have decided that I am following my dream to become a radio personality. Goals and dreams start with you.

    1. Thanks for reading! Navigating adulthood is SO HARD and I WISH someone would have warned me! But I’m so glad to know that this feeling is universal and that it does get better. Thanks again! Xo

  18. I do not know if your writting is possitive or not…i have similar dream in my head and i cannot imagine i would give up on it…no matter how old i am…ur article seems you want to hide ur own feelings …i dont believe you could change ur life and BE OK WITH IT…so many years u spent thinking about it and now just let it go? Maybe its still deserve to fight for it…i wish u good luck

  19. A good fight is always worth it, no matter how old you become. Fulfilment of dreams brings satisfaction

  20. With every new breath comes new life … Appreciate the present moment and you will find everything is already here for you …

    Lovely post X

  21. I really like how you compared your life as a 26 year old to being a gymnast. It was a lot more interesting than just saying how your life used to be and how you want it to change. Very enjoyable :)

  22. Belated happy birthday and yes this is the beauty of life..
    Growing up is not an easy journey, but again have said that growing up is the most beautiful part of the journey we all make..

  23. I am 59 and I am an artist but not making money yet. I say go for what you want to be NOW while you are young! Don’t wait, ponder, be hesitant, or lazy, or else you will be 59 and finally trying to figure out how to do what I really have always wanted to do! (PS. I have a son in his mid 30’s
    who was big into gymnastics, unfortunately he didn’t do anything with it and he regrets it.)

  24. Enjoyed this. Every year brings adjustment. Drop some dreams and plans and gain new ones. It keeps things exciting, terrifying and shiny. I am 64 and I have never been bored. Enjoy your journey.

  25. Age is never a definition, but always a question. It allows us to ask our inner being what’s next. Setting standards and reaching limits of higher expectations. 27 is an interesting season of what ifs. Trust the process and it’ll all go according to plan. Thanks for your thought process of how wonderful you are. Beautiful read!

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