It didn’t matter if it was Monopoly, minigolf, gym class, or the gymnastics state championship, competition was always filling my soft inside. It got my heart pumping and made me feel really alive. If I put a competitive spin on anything I was doing, my interest was snagged, and I had to win.
From 4 to 17 years old my competitive passion was gymnastics. I had an entire wall in my bedroom dedicated to the ribbons and trophies I won in local competitions. My parents thought it was cute until they realized I’d used a staple gun to hang all my ribbons. The other three walls in my room were covered with pictures of Olympic gymnasts I cut out of magazines.
Just after my tenth birthday, I found myself competing in a state championship qualifier. After three events, I realized I was in first place. All I had to do was stick my balance beam routine and I would win the competition and be going on to the championships. Watch out, Nadia, here I come.
Well, three-quarters of the way through my routine, my foot slipped off the narrow, four-inch beam and I fell to the mat. I thought I couldn’t feel any worse about this stupid mistake until I sheepishly looked at my coach and saw that he’d dropped his head in his hands. I crawled back onto my nemesis, that beam, and finished my routine without a flaw.
I quickly did the calculations in my head and realized that I had not only lost the all-around competition, but I would be sitting at home while several of my teammates went on to the state championships. I ran into the locker room and started to cry.
After a few minutes, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Through bleary eyes, I looked up and found a teammate of mine, Cassandra Wheeler, whom I greatly admired, standing in front of me. Between sobs, I declared that I was quitting gymnastics.
She walked away, and I thought that my role model was turning her back on me and my trivial problems. Then I heard a clanging at her locker and she returned with a small orange card in her hand. She held it out and I read the words, You Mustn’t Quit.
“Remember why you chose to do gymnastics,” she told me. “You love it!