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Day 8 of my 21 day writing challenge

I looked around and made sure nobody was paying me any attention and I slipped out of the gym and just kept walking. It didn’t matter where.

I jumped out of bed that morning pumped, motivated and excited. I was headed to Boulder, CO where a gymnastics clinic was being hosted at CU. I saw a poster announcing the details of it at the library and as soon as I pulled together enough money, I called and had them mail me the registration form.

I found out there was a shuttle bus that ran between Denver and Boulder and I hatched out a plan for how I was gonna make this happen.

Check-in & registration began early so I got up around 5:30am in order to get ready and catch the bus to the shuttle depot and ride for almost an hour to Boulder.

The shuttle stop was on the edge of campus so I spent another unplanned 20 minutes just finding the gym. I got there just in time for the first session.

Immediately, I felt out of place. There were kids of all ages and their parents and coaches. They asked what level I was, I didn’t know so they put me in a group with other high school gymnasts.

All of the guys in my group had a sort of uniformity. Not like wearing the exact same thing but like they were following a dress code that I didn’t get the memo on. T-shirts with their gym name or some college gymnastics shirt or some shirt they got from a competition they attended. They wore a branded pair of shorts or sweats. I had some shorts i normally practice in and a plain white t-shirt.

They were not unfriendly to me, they were just connected in some way to each other while I was not yet linked-in.

Our group started on floor exercise and the coach was leading us in a warm up which everyone seemed familiar with but me. As he called out the next exercise or stretch, I would just look around and copy what the other guys were doing.

As the session progressed, I got to know a bit about the guys and them about me. The questions they asked were what school do you go to, what gym do you train at and where are you going to college? They talked about meets they competed in with references to other gymnasts that they all seemed to know.

After the warm-up we did a basic tumbling drill and then we showed the coach some of the tumbling passes in our routine. Some of these guys were doing double backs and double fulls. One guy had a full-in back out.

It was a clinic where we all came to learn and get better but like any event with athletes there’s going to be some showing off. This was my best event and I couldn’t keep up with them.

We had a short break after the first session and were going to pommel horse next.

Rather than ignore all of the non-gymnastics issues that started to cloud my head, I chose to focus on them and soon began to feel this waterfall of inadequacy splashing onto every thought I had. Wherever I looked, I’d make a comparison and conclude that I didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t live up to to it. I figured If I couldn’t keep up with these guys on floor, I was going to be way in over my head on pommel horse and all the other events - maybe even vault.

I decided to leave.

This was not the first time I felt inadequate nor would it be the last. I have since come to realize that we are all traveling our own unique journey. An adventure unlike anyone else’s. I approach things differently now. Instead of allowing comparisons with others to overwhelm me, I stand in my truth knowing there will be experiences where I feel right at home and some where I’m extremely uncomfortable.

We sometimes share this idea with students as part of our 1OAK LIFE presentation.

I remain grateful.

Jerry L. Burrell doing a rudy bounce pass at halftime performance for Iowa Energy
All learning happens outside your comfort zone

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