Hey Sweet Pea,
I imagine you have dreams. Dreams that, if you are anything like me, you spend more time thinking about than reality. I would be lying to you if I told you that I didn’t spend the majority of my day lost in my fantasies. Some of my dreams actually have become a part of my everyday reality. Others have remained wishful hopes and desires. That is fine. I am here to tell you that every dream is not meant to be a reality and every fantasy is not meant to come to fruition. Apply that last sentence to your love life as well. Trust me; it will save you a few headaches and heart breaks.
I want to share with you a dream that I’ve always had. If I could go back and live life again, I would not omit my burning desire to be an Olympic gymnast. You could never tell by the way I look, or the way I talk but I have wanted to be a gymnast for as long as I could remember. A figure skater was a close second for a few years but it could never hold a candle to my one true love. I remember watching the Olympics in apartment 14D in 2007 Surf Ave in Coney Island. We used to live in the projects, but at the time I didn’t know any different. Nor did I care. Coney Island was where my family called home. It was all I knew at the time. Somehow we began watching the women’s gymnastic competition. I was hooked ever since. I loved how their bodies moved through the air. How was it possible? Could I do the same thing? I would soon learn that I could at the expense of my head hitting our concrete floor extremely hard.
That didn’t stop me though. In my spare time hidden away from public view I would practice jumping and tumbling whenever I could. I would hang from the rod in the closet of the room that your uncle and I shared. I would hang there for what seemed to be hours and flip my body through my arms. It didn’t stop there. My bed was a spring-board and a trampoline combined. Ready… set… GO! I ran from the hallway, picked up speed, placed my arms out and used my mattress to pounce me into the air… usually right into the wall. I may have hurt myself here or there, but none of this mattered. NONE! Why? In my mind, I was an Olympic gymnast destined for a gold medal. I may have not known how to spell the word leotard or balance beam, but I knew that I needed one to be a gymnast.
The summer before I entered the second grade, we moved to south Queens in a town called Rosedale. This is where my life changed. I made new friends, started a new school and was labeled as gifted and talented by every teacher that met me. Though everything around me was changing, my love for gymnastics never did. In fact, it grew stronger. I finally had someone to look up to! Her name was Domnique Dawes and in my head I WAS HER. I loved her. Everything about her was amazing! Maybe that’s part of the reason I loved and hated your Auntie Maia so much. She was a gymnast when we were younger and she always reminded me of Dominque Dawes. She was on her way to being everything I ever wanted to be. While Maia actually trained at a gym, I was used chalk to draw a 4inch balance beam on my bedroom floor, grass, concrete or anything else I could practice on. While Maia was swinging from uneven bars, I was swinging from monkey bars at my school up the street. I may have been envious but I always loved to watch Maia perform. She was just so graceful and strong. It was because of her that I taught myself a back walkover and trained myself how to stand in a handstand. These were skills that I added to my “self taught techniques” which included a wolf jump, my dismount stance and how to wave to the crowd. I spent hours each day practicing how to stretch, flip and even perfected a one handed cartwheel. I just knew I was going to be great one day. Haha.
I bet you are wondering why I never became a gymnast. Well, I don’t know. I don’t know who to blame or if there is anyone to blame at all. At some point your grandmother knew I was interested, so she placed me in a gymnastic dance class. Not exactly what I wanted, but close enough. I guess I can blame myself because I was never truly vocal about my love for the sport. I was always a chubby kid and I knew that I surpassed the weight requirements for a gymnast long ago. So I kept my obsession private. I am sure if I would have made it more known, my mother would have done everything in her power to try to help my dream come true. She has always been amazing at being a supporter. I just think she did not know how to help me and that is fine. She helped me enough by getting me out of the projects and into an environment that I was able to blossom academically and socially. Alas, here I am today with the same dream still running through my head. I know my love has not died down because I still watch every gymnastic event, television show, movie or documentary that I can. I even considered forcing you into gymnastic but I decided to let you make your own choices. You deserve that.
If you take nothing else from this story, I want you to know that I promise to do everything in my power to help you live whatever dream you have. I just ask that you open your mouth and release your voice to let me know what is on your heart. Don’t ever be afraid of what I may say or how I may react. Sure I would love to see you become the next President of the United States, but if traveling the world digging up artifacts makes you happy, let me know so I can buy your first shovel and bury my old toys in the back yard for you to find. Making sure you have every opportunity in the world is what I am here for. I want you to be great and I always will.