Val’s Exit Blog

As I look across the grass, my eyes venture to the goal. I watch as the boys graze through the field, tumbling over their feet in attempt to catch their opponent. As the leader journeys on, a goal is imminent. He swiftly veers right, parallel to the net; then suddenly, he jolts, he turns, he lifts up his right foot, using his left arm to balance against the wind. As his foot approaches the ball, it is obvious he would succeed.

I was five years old and in the middle of a co-ed soccer game. Except, I was the only girl who signed up for the team. To be precise, my mom signed me up. You see I never actually played soccer. Opposite of wherever the action on the field took place, I would twirl around and pick dandelions, wishing upon each piece that flew off with the wind. But, I was most famous for my cartwheels.

I loved to be upside down. I loved climbing random poles on the playground; the ones that keep the playground in tact; the ones you aren’t suppose to be on. I loved latching the under side of my legs onto a bar and swinging back and forth until I had enough momentum to backflip off. I was the queen of the playground and everyone knew it.

On my seventh birthday, my younger sister and I were playing in our front yard. My mom was casually doing the dishes, watching us through the kitchen window. On this day, something inside of me grew brave. I stood on my front lawn, unaware of the world. I focused on nothing except my internal reality.  And then I did it – just like that. I did a standing backflip… and landed! My mom came rushing out of our front door, pleading for me to explain to her how I had completed such an action. Though, I couldn’t rationalize.  It was then that we discovered my deep desire for gymnastics.

My immediate family was never wealthy. We never had enough money to buy our own house or to go on a vacation. Though, I was used to this lifestyle. We lived in a home (rented, but I never cared), we had cars, my parents had jobs, and there were trees in our backyard to climb on. To me we were rich. But there is one thing I always knew I lacked as a result of our financial situation: gymnastics lessons.

I lived in California until I was twelve. On that year my family and I packed up our lives and moved to a land far, far way: Minnesota. With this move came a financial blessing to my parents. We purchased our first home, my younger sister and I got cell phones, and we even bought a car (used, but good as new). Of course, none of those things mattered to me as much as my ability to enroll at the North Shore Gymnastics Association. I was officially a gymnast.

For three years I vigorously competed. I excelled quicker than any of my coaches had ever witnessed. From level three to level six – just like that. I was truly talented. My freshman year of high school introduced me to an entirely new team of girls. I had the choice to remain a club gymnast or to convert to being a gymnast on my high school team – which had earned state titles eight consecutive years previous.  It was a tough decision to leave the coaches who taught me everything I knew, but it was one I would never forget.

I began the first week of my high school team showing the coaches what I could do and bonding with my new teammates. Almost immediately the coaches added me to the Varsity roster. I was honored. Though, two weeks into the season, the unimaginable happened. My right ankle stress fractured.  I felt like the world had come crashing down on me, like I was being punished for something. I didn’t understand why this had happened to me. But I quickly forgave my injury and spent the rest of the season cheering on my friends and watching my team place second at the Minnesota State Championship – an aspiration I dreamt of for years. It was the most difficult feeing to sit on the sidelines and know that I had nothing to do with the celebration. I had not competed.

Once summer rolled around, my ankle had finally healed (or so I thought). I spent the summer revitalizing my strength, talents, and passion for the sport. I was ready for the upcoming season. During the fall, my body was back into full swing. I practiced sixteen hours a week; preparing myself for success when suddenly I noticed significant discomfort in my right ankle. Afraid of the possible injury, I continued to practice. But the moment arrived when I could no longer resist the pain. My right ankle had, once again, stress fractured.

My doctor told me that if I continued to do gymnastics, my ankle would only worsen and that I could acquire terrible problems with my joints in the near future. I had to choose between a life I was so fully content with and a life without gymnastics. As agonizing as it was, I chose to permanently resign from the sport. This is when my life began and when my dreams started to come true.

With the time I now had, I joined clubs, other sports, focused on my academics, but most importantly, I joined DECA. DECA is a business and marketing organization through which I found a knack. I became an officer for my high school chapter. I won multiple times at the state level and competed multiple times at the international level. I placed in the top fifteen at the international competition and earned an international scholarship – both uncommon admirations. I also earned the honor of serving Minnesota DECA as the state’s Vice President of Public Relations. All in all, DECA served me well.

Beyond the accomplishments, DECA gave me the opportunity to meet so many different types of people from around the globe. I am now a student at the University of Minnesota and most of the people I meet on a daily basis on campus know me from my involvement with DECA. It is through DECA that I have found a profound passion for communicating with anyone and everyone that crosses my path.

Despite being extremely challenging, my decision to quite gymnastics allowed me to engross my time into DECA, which, in turn, shaped me into the person I am today. I often ponder the moment my doctor told me to quit.  What if I had not listened to her? Who would I be today? But then I catch myself, I remember; everything happens for a reason. There is no way to know what the future holds for me. All I can do is trust that things will work out just as they should, just as they always have.