Strength, God, and Finding Out Who I Am

Through many of the tough situations that happen in my life, I have learned so much about who I am and how I became to be, me.

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As a college student, I look back on things I had experienced in life.  I look at my past, and see my answered prayers, those testimony builders, and lessons I learned: as well as finding out who I am.  “Never let an earthly circumstance disable you spiritually.”-Elder Donald L. Hallstrom. That simple sentence reminded me no matter what I suffer in life; I cannot let my spirit and testimony fall away. At 11, I joined the one of most competitive sports of all; gymnastics. At 12 I earned a spot on the competitive side of gymnastics, and entered into level 4. I finally found something I loved and it made me happy.

At 13, competition season rolled around, and I found the most joy in competing in events that seemed impossible to others, but a piece of cake to me. When my first state meet rolled around, I was starting to get nervous and scared. I prayed to heavenly father so hard, pleading with him to give me the strength to do well at my first major competition of my career. I opened my scriptures one day, and turned to D&C 19:23 “learn of me and listen to my words. Walk in the meekness of my spirit and yea shall have peace in Me.” This simple verse said so little, but meant so many different things to me. It became my favorite scripture, and kept me believing with hope and faith in my heart. It was my very first season ever of competitive gymnastics, and I received 2nd all around in the state. I knew without pleading with the lord, and without reading my scriptures and without turning to the lord, I knew my accomplishment would have never happened.
            At 14, I took first place all-around at level 5 state and was named State Champion of Southern California. I worked so hard to become the best I could for everyone that was counting on me. More over I worked so hard to impress my coaches and wanted to show them all I could do. Because of winning state championships, I was able to train for the next level. I started to do a front flip on the tumble track (trampoline), and by mere accident I squeezed my body too hard trying to make it perfect, and forgot to bend my knees when landing. I felt immense pain in my left knee, and saw it was swelling up. When I went to the doctor, he had me get a MRI and told me I had slightly pulled my meniscus, and I would have to be out of gymnastics for a while. While recovering, I was in physical therapy, and still headed off to the gym working on my upper strength. While my torso and arms were getting buff and strong, my legs were becoming weak and a little chubby. At 14 I was the skinniest little thing just like my sisters. In a matter of 5 months, I had become this buff beast with muscles and broad shoulders, but still had weak flabby legs. When I got the ok to practice again, I started working on skills, but realized that I couldn’t do them as I once could. I was so frustrated, and could not believe what one injury and a few months did to my body, skills, and most of all, my love for the sport. After a few practices, my coaches decided that I would repeat level 5. I felt completely discouraged, and felt as if my dream had diminished. I had a completely successful previous season, and in a matter of months my dream of moving up slipped through my fingers. I decided to not give up, and decided to give it all that I could once again. That season I received 4th All-Around in the state and knew it wasn’t first place, but I did the best I could with what I had to face. I was proud of myself, and noticed everyone else was proud of me too. After the end of the season, I finally moved on up to level 6.
            At 16, things in the gymnastics world became harder for me. In level 6, I began to do back tucks, front tucks, and flips everywhere else. I had to learn to do skills a different way to compensate my knee and use my upper body more. I noticed that I had pain in my back for a few weeks, and told my coaches about the pain, but they just shook it off, and told me to get back to work. I decided maybe they were right and ignored the pain more. Competition season was rolling around, and training was getting harder. My back pain continued to worsen, and found that it was hard for me to go backwards on the beam. From all the hard landings, shin splints were appearing and caused even more pain at practice. With my back feeling like knives and my shins feeling like pins and needles every time I stepped, I felt it was the end. The pain was so bad at times and I had to stay home in bed. No matter how hard I tried to put the pain aside and give it my best, my coaches never seemed to notice, and it really discouraged me to work hard. They got to the point where they completely ignored my training, and gave up on coaching me. I felt I no longer had a purpose there. Over time, I started to give up with myself, and realized I was losing the one thing I loved to do. I would come home upset with the things my coaches would say to me, and couldn’t believe what life was putting me through. I felt as if my own talent was fading away. One practice I was in so much pain I began to cry, and my coach came to me and asked me why was I still here.  She asked me did I really want to continue to put myself through this torture and pain, and continue to put myself down. Did I really want to be in pain for the rest of my life? She was giving me the option to back out of it all right before the season started. The idea seemed so good to me, because I lost the passion I once felt for the sport. Without thinking, I told my coach I was done, and that I wanted to be done right then and there. My coaches had a meeting with me and my parents and told them that they thought I needed to stop, but my loving mother insisted on me finishing out the season. I felt angry with her for not understanding what I wanted, but little did I know she was right. My father came up with a solution for me to take a week off, and skip the first meet of the season and see how I was feeling, and then compete in the next meet if I felt ready to. I realize now, that was the beginning of a life changing experience that built up my testimony of the gospel, and more importantly, I realized who I really am.
            After the week of rest, I knew it was time to go back. I went to my sports medicine doctor to get me in better shape. He knew me well because his daughter was my teammate, and knew the plan and what I was going through. He knew the pain I was experiencing and knew I was trying my best to make it through. He told me the best advice that I will always remember. He told me this is my body, my life and my book, and each chapter will contain decisions I make for myself whether good or bad, but to know the consequences to them. He told me it’s ok to quit if I didn’t love the sport anymore, but it’s not ok to quit by simply giving up or by injuries because they can be fixed, but regret cannot.  He said goals are very important to have and they may change accordingly, but to stick to them. He told me no matter where I stand at the end of any meet; I would know what I accomplished that day, and that I gave it my best. I realized he was right and even though I may have been first out of 2 or 3 gymnasts, in the end I was the better gymnast. I told him it always felt so good standing at the podium no matter what place I got, just grateful I was able to stand on the podium, knowing I worked hard for it. No matter what place I ended up, I did the best to my ability with injuries. I said to him no matter what place I get at state, all I wanted was to feel the relief of finishing off a good season as best as possible. He told me with a smile, he heard a goal. I finally knew what my job was; to finish season believing I would be able to finish. From that point on, I was no longer confused, I knew what I wanted to do, and no one would stop me from completing my goal. Coming out of that doctor office, I had a whole new prospective on the situation at hand, and knew exactly what I needed to do.
            That night I went straight to my scriptures and opened up to my favorite scripture. As I read the words again and again, I knew I needed heavenly father, and needed his love and magic. I had sectionals that weekend, and barely made it out qualifying for state. I tripped in my run for vault, ripped my hand on bars, fell on beam, and as embarrassing as it is forgot the middle of my floor routine.  I got home wondering why I messed up so much, but as I thought about it I knew exactly why I struggled. I needed to not only get all the bad jitters out, but I needed to start praying to heavenly father. I was busy and exhausted from practice and hadn’t made time to pray. I realized it was God’s small and simple message to me to pray for what I needed, and for what I wanted. Every night for 2 weeks I prayed to Heavenly Father asking for help and strength to make it through this last meet and keeping faith for a pain free body. I prayed intently with all my heart and talked to him for hours, pouring out my heart and soul in tears for my desire. I wanted so badly to do the best not only for myself, but for all those who stood behind me rooting me on.
The morning of my state meet, I woke with faith in my heart, and knew the day was going to be amazing. For my session I was alone but in the stands, I saw my teammates and family there supporting me for my last shining moment. I finished warm ups and realized my back pain and shin splints were gone. I got through 3 events as best as I could, and did better than I had all season. My feelings though suddenly change as I walked to my last rotation. I skimmed my fingers across the beam feeling the rough suede beneath my fingers. While warming up my legs, I closed my eyes, and envisioned the perfect routine, hitting everything, especially the backwards skill that hurt my back. I took my warm ups off and began warming skills on the floor. While waiting for my turn, my coach pulls me around, and looks me straight in the eyes. “I want you to know no matter what we have been through, I am so proud of you. I know I have been hard on you but I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did my final meet. I fell on beam and regret not giving it all I had. I don’t want that to happen to you. You have so much potential, and I want you to feel like you accomplished something when you walk out of here. I have been so proud of you today. I want you to go on that beam, and give it your all. You know you have it, your warm-up was the most beautiful warm-up I have ever seen it this season, and I want you to do it for yourself. Make yourself proud, and kick some butt.” I couldn’t believe what my coach had said to me, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. I was so ready to prove everyone what I could really do. I closed my eyes waiting for my turn, praying for the mental strength to finish off what I came here to do. As the judge called my name, I smiled, pulled myself together, placed my hand on the beam, and began the last routine of my career.
            I finished my routine, and hit everything pain free. As I saluted at the end for the last time, I realized tears were strolling down my face, and knew I finally did it. I looked at my coach walking back and saw she was clapping, and saw tears streaming down her face too. I knew I proved to everyone I could do it, but most of all, I proved to myself that through faith, anything was possible. When I truly turned to the lord for help, I receive a blessing in return. I was pain-free my entire meet, and felt free of all the emptiness and negativity I had felt 2 weeks prior to this final event. I knew when I turned to the lord, everything I needed, happened, because of my faith, and the desire I had to finish out the season proudly prevailed. Without my earthly parents, and my heavenly parents, I would not have learned a lesson in life. I would have not learned the importance of sticking through the tough times. I would have simply given up, and would have felt regret for leaving the situation without asking for help from others, especially from my heavenly father. I turned to the lord and finally found out who I was…a strong young woman with a strong heart, and when I reached for a goal, I finished it till the end, and accomplished something greater than a placing; I built a stronger testimony, and built a stronger me. “Therefore, hold on thy way, and . . . fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever” (D&C 122:9).

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