callistahogan: (Default)
“And now for Callista Hogan on the uneven bars.”

I tightened my ponytail, smiling at my coach. I walked over to the chalk bucket, making sure my hands were fully coated in the substance. Then I took one deep breath, visualizing the routine in my mind, and walked up onto the mat. Start values were announced, but I kept my eyes focused on the bars.

I had to keep my focus. This was my one shot, and I couldn't ruin it. I had worked so hard for this moment, ever since I was three years old.

One more deep breath.

My hands met the bars, hard and strong and fast just like in all of my practices. My arms, taut and powerful, pulled me into my first rotation. Legs straightened and toes pointed as I moved into my first handstand. I held it—one shallow breath, two—and then swung around. My legs spread, toes pointed, as I moved into one more rotation. I swung around again, letting go of the bar—

I felt like I was flying through the short distance to the high bar. For a moment, all was still and silent as I wondered if I would reach it but then—strong. Sure. I landed the high bar.

The momentum pulled me into another rotation. I felt like I was flying through the air. The feeling was infinite; the bars against my hands, the strength of my arms as I held a handstand and then went spinning into a rotation, and my legs, stretched tight and powerfully together, completing my perfect lines. As I spun, faster than I believed possible, I spread my legs and then brought them together again as I came over the top of the high bar into a handstand.

I released the bar, spinning into a Jaeger. I somersaulted through the air—I was a bird, graceful and strong—and caught the bar again. Another rotation and another handstand, legs extended. My hands moved across the bar with a Nastia Liukin-like flourish, changing my position—a piroette—and I spun, gaining speed.

I let go of the bar.

Power, adrenaline—all coursed through my body as I landed the low bar again. I kept my legs slightly at an angle to the floor, toes pointed, and spun. The bar remained the sole stationary spot in my vision as I spun around it, everything else blurring. There was nothing but the bar. Nothing but my routine existed. Nothing existed but the feel of my hands on the bar and my body moving through the air. The flight to the high bar again made me feel invincible, impenetrable.

The rest of my routine was a blur. Another release move—this time, I let go of the bar, flying backward over the bar, legs apart, and caught it again. A perfect Tkatchev. I barely managed to spare a thought for my coach, most likely beaming with pride, as I swung around the bar. A handstand, another release—flying high over the bar, gaining air—and then I spun, ready to dismount.

As I rotated over the bar and then came back down, I released. I felt the air whistle past my face. I somersaulted through the air, body straightening as I neared the ground. My feet met the mat, solid and firm. A smile spread across my face and I raised my arms. The crowd cheered. As I stepped off the mat for the next girl to compete, my coach grabbed me around the waist and spun me.

“I'm so proud of you, girl,” he whispered. “You're going to the Olympics!”



It is an unfulfilled dream, this fantasy.

Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated by the girls who spun around the high bars. I was intrigued by the skills the girls utilized on the balance beam, with their standing full twists and leaps through the air and the way they made it seem so effortless. I wondered why they ran toward the vault, somersaulting through the air. How did they always land on their feet?

“Daddy,” I remember myself saying. “Can I go to a gym, please? I wanna be a gymnast!”

“Maybe,” my father said, smiling at me. “Let's see if we can find a good one.”

When I was five or six—maybe a little older, maybe a little younger—my mother and I used to watch gymnastics together. (Figure skating too, but I only paid attention to the gymnastics.) I would take the pillows off my couch and lay them on the floor.

“I'm gonna be like them one day,” I said. “I'm gonna be a gymnast!”

I arranged the pillows on the floor, content to somersault across them for hours. I leaped and danced across the floor, pretending I was one of those girls who could do those elegant tumbling runs. And when I got bored, I balanced on the arm of the couch, arms outstretched. When my mother and I went on walks, I would balance on the edge of the sidewalk.

I pretended I was on a balance beam. I was strong and graceful, powerful and sure. I could do the tricks. I could cartwheel across four inches of wood. I could jump off the beam and land back on it, straight as a pin. Handstands? No problem. Straddling the beam, bringing myself back up to a standing position, all with perfect balance? Of course. I could do that in my sleep.

They are so pretty, I acknowledged. They make it look effortless. I wanna be like them. I wanna be powerful and strong.

I want to be free as a bird, I thought as I watched gymnasts on the high bars.

Years passed.

I was five, six, seven and then eight. Deep inside, I knew it was never going to happen, but that didn't stop me from wishing.

“Dad, please enroll me in a gym, please?” I begged. “Mackenzie and Caitlyn and everyone else are doing gymnastics. Why can't I?”

There was always an excuse. Not enough money, he said. No good gyms around, he said. It's not the right time, he said. There was never enough money, never a good gym, and it was never the right time. As I grew older, the door began closing. People started gymnastics when they were three or four, not when they were pushing on ten.

I am fifteen, and I am already too old for one of my biggest dreams. Many of the elite gymnasts are my age—give or take a year or two—and they have been practicing since they were three or four. Maybe even two in the cases of some of them. It's taken them years to get to the point where they are now, and I can just imagine the way they feel when they are doing that which they love.

It must feel like freedom to swing around that bar, going into a Jaeger or a Tkatchev or any number of the other difficult moves gymnasts do every day.

They must feel like birds.

I see them in my hopes and my nostalgic What ifs. Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson competing in the 2008 Olympics are inspirations. They follow their dreams. Nastia Liukin with her perfect routine on the bars doing something no other gymnast in the world is able to do—Shawn Johnson pushing up to silver with her fabulous floor routine in Beijing—

Amazing women, both of them.

I long to be one of them, but deep in my heart, I know it is too late. The door is closed, the cage is locked, and I know. I was not meant for the bars or the floor or the beam. I cannot strike the bars hard and fast, like a cobra, and spin into rotations with my tension perfect, light and strong as a hawk.

No, that is not my path.

I am meant for the quiet room, my fingers tapping gently at the keys, exploring long-lost dreams and the wish for the future. I am meant to contemplate the ever-prevalent question in my mind:

What if?

--

This has been my entry for week 17 of [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol. I hope you enjoyed this entry, and hopefully you will consider voting for me when the poll comes up!

Date: 2010-03-07 04:55 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] roina-arwen.livejournal.com
I've always been fascinated with gymnasts too, so I understand where you're coming from here. Great entry!

Date: 2010-03-07 07:48 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] callistahogan.livejournal.com
Thanks! :)

Date: 2010-03-07 05:44 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] oneonthefence.livejournal.com
Third indeed. And "what if?" definitely seems to be the question. I think we all long for that "what if?"

Very well done.

Date: 2010-03-07 07:50 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] callistahogan.livejournal.com
I'm so surprised I got my entry in so fast. This entry is the fastest one I've ever managed to get down on the computer screen and posted.

I definitely agree with you on the "What if?" I definitely tend to wonder about what could have been, but never so much as when I think about gymnastics. And how different my life would have been if I had pursued that particular dream.

Thanks so much. :)

Date: 2010-03-07 11:34 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] itswhatiam.livejournal.com
The best advice I can ever give anyone is to follow your heart. It may not always lead you to the right place, but if it is a mistake, you learn from it and move on. Whether it turns out to be the right or wrong decision, you won't find yourself looking back at 40 and wondering "What if...."

It might be too late to get into competitive gymnastics, but you're never to old to start anything. So what if you can't go to the Olympics? You can still learn how to get on that bar and feel that wind across your face, even if it's just one time. Go for it!

Date: 2010-03-07 07:53 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] callistahogan.livejournal.com
I would like to go to a gym someday, whether to try to do something myself in regards to gymnastics or maybe enroll my child in the sport. I just think... if I can't do it, maybe my child will be able to in a decade or two (when I actually have children!). I just would love to be involved in some way, because I really, really love it. And I'm happy with the goal I am pursuing now--my writing--but sometimes I just wonder about the path my life would have taken if I had been able to go into gymnastics.

Date: 2010-03-07 11:36 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] baxaphobia.livejournal.com
This is lovely and sad. But you fly with your words and hopefully your wings will take you far!

Date: 2010-03-07 07:54 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] callistahogan.livejournal.com
Thank you. :) I might not be able to be an elite gymnast, but I can be a writer. And the feeling I imagine I would get through gymnastics... well, when I write about it, it's almost as though I *am* experiencing it.

Date: 2010-03-07 04:55 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] beautyofgrey.livejournal.com
This is simply fantastic. This really gripped me from the beginning, and I loved the surprise of the fantasy v. reality. I can relate to so much of this (yes, I wanted to be a gymnast, too, but no money, no time, we were always moving from place to place). But you made me feel like I was flying and spinning with you on those bars, and for that, I really, really love this piece.

Fantastic job this week!

Date: 2010-03-07 07:56 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] callistahogan.livejournal.com
Aw, *blush* Thank you so much! I really wanted to capture the feeling of the bars, and I'm glad I managed to do so. And I'm glad people can relate to it! :D

Date: 2010-03-07 06:18 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] pricelessone.livejournal.com
It used to be my dream, too, to be an Olympic gymnast. And even if it can never be, for both of us, keep dreaming.

Date: 2010-03-07 07:58 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] callistahogan.livejournal.com
I think a lot of girls imagine being a gymnast when they're young.

And don't worry, I'm definitely still dreaming. My big dream might have changed into something less physically grueling, but my dreams and hopes and wishes are still there. Just, they're directed to something else. :)

Date: 2010-03-07 07:31 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] hug-machine.livejournal.com
This is inspiring and sad at the same time. You clearly love, love, love it. You visualize it so well I would have never suspected it was fiction. Which I guess makes you a brilliant writer, but still!

And hon, you're so young! It's never too late for dreams, and especially not in your case! Though I can see your point...

Date: 2010-03-07 08:02 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] callistahogan.livejournal.com
Oh, yes. I love it so, so, so much. Words cannot express how much I love it, but I tried to show it in this entry. I'm glad I succeeded, and I'm also glad that the beginning felt so real for you. I really wanted to make that part, in particular, feel authentic.

Like I said to someone else, I want to be involved in gymnastics in some way. It's much too late for me to be an actual competitive gymnast, but that doesn't mean that I can't be a part of it somehow. Whether I'm in a gym myself or I enroll my child in a gym when I get much older, I want to be involved in some way.

And I still have a specific dream I'm reaching toward. I still have big dreams, but they've changed in certain ways. I wonder what my life would have been like if I was a gymnast, but I love writing so much. And that is my goal, and my dream, that I'm pursuing. :)

Date: 2010-03-08 12:04 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] imafarmgirl.livejournal.com
This was outstanding! The description of the bars made me hold my breath wondering if you'd fall. Then you had me tricked into thinking you were some star gymnast for a while. Fantastic job. I loved gymnastics as a kid, still do, but I am fat and uncoordinated. lol. I did horseback riding instead, as my entry this week sort of describes.

Date: 2010-03-08 01:15 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] tamaraland.livejournal.com
I always wanted to be a gymnast too. My parents took me to a coach when I was five and he looked me up and down and suggested they send me to ice hockey. I find that funny today.

Date: 2010-03-08 08:18 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] shadowwolf13
shadowwolf13: (Default)
I love watching them do their routines. I've even been watching Make it or Break it on Hulu because it's all about their world (with some added teenage drama).

Date: 2010-03-09 03:28 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] plastrickland23.livejournal.com
Beautiful entry. Yes, we all experience some "What if's" as we go through school and get older. I wish there were more novice level opportunities for adults to explore their dreams they were never able to pursue as a kid.
P.

Date: 2010-03-09 05:20 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] furzicle.livejournal.com
I am left wondering, "Why?" Or perhaps more accurately, "Why not?"

Date: 2010-03-09 05:34 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] alycewilson.livejournal.com
Great job. I like your use of description.

Date: 2010-03-09 03:26 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] lawchicky.livejournal.com
*hugs* I understand your plight of a missed opportunity. I hope that you get to do some gymnastics someday, even if you don't get to the Olympics.

Date: 2010-03-09 10:48 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] pixie117.livejournal.com
I can totally relate to this. I wanted to be a gymnast so badly. My mom let me take classes for a bit when I was 10 years old, but she couldn't afford them for long.

I always think "what if?" as well.

great job.

Date: 2010-03-09 10:59 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] rattsu.livejournal.com
*peeks at comments* Honestly, this is not only one of your fastest entries, it is one of your best. The ending is the perfect counterpoint that balances the whole piece.

Date: 2010-03-10 03:40 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] onda-bianca.livejournal.com
Never give up your dreams. You aren't too old to tumble about...even if it's not for the Olympic gold. My college roommate began gymnastics our freshman year and had a great deal of fun with it...:)

Date: 2010-03-10 04:41 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] zia-narratora.livejournal.com
Oh, gosh, I know this feeling. And you will have other dreams that replace those ones you've outgrown, but there will always be the little what-ifs. I wanted to do a lot of things when I was a kid, and as much as I love my parents, you could definitely see a reflection of their own outgrown dreams in the ones they supported and the ones that they poo-pooed. I don't think they meant to poo-poo them, it's just that they were things that they couldn't identify with dreaming of.

Date: 2010-03-10 05:22 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] cheshire23.livejournal.com
It's hard to see a door already closed like that, isn't it? But, cliche that this is, others will open, some you probably wouldn't have guessed yet.

Date: 2010-03-10 10:02 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] comedychick.livejournal.com
The whole first section really felt like you knew what it was like, I had no clue you had never got the opportunity to even try.

Whilst I know a lot of gymnast "careers" occur in youth, just think, what would've happened when you got too old to compete any more, if you'd spent all your time doing gymnastics and nothing else? So sure, there might be the "what if?" your dream had come true, but there could've been negatives from that outcome, too. I much prefer to focus on the positives of what is :)

Date: 2010-03-10 08:05 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] cacophonesque.livejournal.com
That beginning was so strong--it really felt real and alive. And the last bit was sad. But I can relate. There were a lot of things that I wanted to do when I was a kid, and the "we can't afford it" answer was one I heard a lot.

But, like others have said--you can still give a go for the fun and the experience and the love of it, even if you won't end up at the Olympics.

Date: 2010-03-10 10:50 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] beeker121.livejournal.com
I still want to dance better than I do, and in my brain I create perfect routines to the songs on the radio. But it's not too late for either one of us to try.

Your descriptions in this were lovely.

Date: 2010-03-11 02:30 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] markmade.livejournal.com
This was very sweet and poignant. Great job!

Date: 2010-03-12 04:35 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] twistersflower.livejournal.com
Another beautiful piece of writing. This one made me want to cry because today I just received feedback from an audition I had gone to where I was basically told I was too old. Not even that I looked too old to sing the role I auditioned for (it was an "old lady" part) but that I was too old to bother with, that this opera company wanted to invest in singers with "long-term career potential".

Date: 2010-03-12 11:44 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] mstrobel.livejournal.com
Oh wow, this hit me really deeply. I know how you feel, to want something and have always wanted it but been denied it ... and then it's too late. And I know it's not -really- too late, you can still find adult beginner classes and the like, but you can't go back in time and be a child again, and have that chance again. *hug*

Date: 2010-03-13 05:11 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] theafaye.livejournal.com
I don't think it's too late to go into gymnastics at all. Sure, you won't win Olympic gold, but you might be surprised just how much you'd get out of it regardless.

As a parent, I did also want to caution you against planning on living your dream vicariously through your children. You may well find that your children aren't interested or aren't that good at it and would be better doing something completely different. Of course, if they are interested, then they've got a mother who'll be willing to go that extra mile for them, which is fantastic, but you might also find that when it's your child, you don't actually want them to be exposed to the unbelieveably pressured world of competitive gymnastics.

Date: 2010-03-13 09:11 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] karmasoup.livejournal.com
I think everybody feels this at some point in their lives... we all have that one passion for a dream that got away from us. Most folks can relate to this from any angle.

Date: 2010-03-13 09:51 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] talonkarrde88.livejournal.com
This post reminds me of a conversation between Morpheus/Dream and William Shakespeare, on the nature of writing. Paraphrased, Shakespeare says that the death of his son, while sad, filled him with some gladness because it meant that he could truly convey tragedy, after having experienced it.

Going by that, having a passion for something that could not be would be a powerful thing to be able to write, I think. I hope you accomplish your dreams :)

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