Operation Caffeination

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Just Call Me Olga Korbut

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My mom is obsessed with the Olympics.

This year alone, she has loving purchased me two Olympics-themed fleece pull-overs, an Olympic rings window cling, a notepad emblazoned with the oh-so-controversial “London 2012″ logo and a set of Olympic torch stickers.

The television was banned from our house growing up, but you can be sure that whenever the Olympics rolled around my mother would dig the old rabbit ears out of the garage and we’d spend our days eating, sleeping and breathing the Olympic games.

Naturally enough, then, my aspirations as a young girl revolved around one day becoming a gymnast and wowing the world with my poise, beauty and physical strength. In particular, I dreamed of one day mastering the balance beam. I wanted to be able to leap, dance, and backflip my way back and forth on those tall, narrow beams, and make it look easy. I slaved away at beam work through several years of gymnastics lessons, certain that I would one day be that amazingly thin, glittery, superwoman on TV.

Somehow, though, my physical abilities never quite lined up with my inner ambitions. As puberty took hold of my body, my legs grew to impossible lengths while my waist remained short and squat. My hips became broad and curvy, and my shoulders and back began to ache constantly from the size of my rapidly developing breasts. I slowly realized that, like it or not, the only amazing feats my body was going to be able to perform were going to revolve around childbirth and breastfeeding. I was simply not physically set up to be a serious athlete, and that came as quite a blow to me.

Unwilling to let reality hamper my dreams, however, I continued to labor away on the high beam in the midst of this emotional turmoil. Every slip, teeter and fumble filled me with embarrassment and anger; I could not believe that nature could so cavalierly rob me of my dream. In the middle of one of these dark moments of self-doubt and seething, conscious hatred of my developing body, a coach put her arm around my shoulder and said gently, “When you’re up on that beam, you can’t let outside things distract you. You have to keep your chin up and focus on where you are going, not where you are in the moment.”

As she spoke, I felt something click into place in my mind; I walked out of the gym that day lost in thought, and I honestly don’t remember if I ever went back again. Gymnastics, and my dreams of winning at least a silver medal, suddenly lost their hold on my mind. (Amazing, isn’t it, the young personality’s ability to turn on a dime?) All the ambition that had previously channeled itself into mastering the high beam instead flowed into my desire to master the most challenging balancing act of my life: budgeting my explosive passions into a neat envelope system, divvied out between my deep desire for children and my drive to achieve academic and professional success.

I no longer dream about appearing on an international stage; I am much better suited to wow a much smaller and more precious audience with my ability to listen, snuggle and have just the right comfort foods on hand, while still remaining authentically connected to my own developing self-definition. I am a story-reading, time-managing, degree-pursuing, heart-connecting star and my face glowed as brightly as any gold medalists when I successfully aced my oceanography final online while sitting cross-legged on the floor at midnight, breastfeeding my son while typing answers to essay questions one-handed. That was, perhaps, the most profound moment I have ever experienced, when all of the pieces came together in time and I knew with complete certainty that I had “stuck the landing” with nary a wobble.

My favorite gym/life coach, working with my youngest sister on the balance beam.

Written by GRSeim

September 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Posted in Social Anxiety

2 Responses

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  1. when I successfully aced my oceanography final online while sitting cross-legged on the floor of our studio apartment at midnight, breastfeeding my son while typing answers to essay questions one-handed

    Wow, that is impressive! Congratulations on acing that final, and hearts and happiness to having found made meaning from the life you live; I tend to find it’s a talent that’s relatively underrepresented in lots of places. We spend so much time thinking about who and where we’d rather be that we forget to appreciate who and where we are! And all of it is pieces along the path, stepping-stones along the journey, and there’s something to be said for being joyful and wanting what you’ve got, after all.


    September 13, 2011 at 2:02 am

  2. I so agree. It is all about the process!


    September 13, 2011 at 5:15 am

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