Dear Seventeen-Year-Old Julie,
I know what word you’re thinking — Perfection.
An A isn’t good enough, Julie. Why couldn’t you get an A+?
Getting into medical school isn’t good enough. You need to get into the best medical school.
Stay tight on your rebound and set more before your full twist.
These are all the things you’re telling yourself right now, working to control everything around you. It doesn’t matter that you think your friends don’t like you anymore. You know what it’s going to take.
Don’t drink. Study.
Don’t party. Train.
Don’t play. Practice, until it’s perfect.
You can’t always control the world around you, Julie. And you’re just about to learn that lesson in the hardest way possible.
Even through tears and heartbreak and feeling defeated, she walked out onto the floor for her final event, stepping one hand in front of the other, foot all locked up in a boot like some kind of cage, and thousands of fans shouting her name. She lost that day, but she didn’t fail.
Tomorrow, you’ll be practicing on the balance beam. You’ll miss your hands doing a back handspring and break your left foot, your gymnastics career, and your identity — or so you think.
You’ll go home and rehearse the move over and over again in your head, replaying it back frame by frame like missing the game-winning shot of the NCAA championship.
“How did you fail on a back handspring, Julie?”
You’ll beat yourself up for days over the seeming simplicity of it all.
“How could that have happened to me? I’ve practiced that hundreds of times.”
I’m going to tell you a little story that I think may help guide you.
In 2015, I watched this twenty-seven-year-old girl chase down her dream. She did everything right. Trained seven days a week, multiple times a day. Sacrificed time with her friends and family. She worked until the mats were stained with sweat in a gym who’s doors had been shut long ago by the last athletes there.
She walked onto the competition floor more prepared than any other athlete.
And you know what Julie, she didn’t make it. She got injured doing a box jump and she lost.
A box jump, like she’d done literally thousands of times before.
She lost, but she didn’t fail. And even through tears and heartbreak and feeling defeated, she walked out onto the floor for her final event, stepping one hand in front of the other, foot all locked up in a boot like some kind of cage, and thousands of fans shouting her name.
She lost that day, but she didn’t fail. And that girl is you, Julie.
You can’t control everything. You just can’t. And that’s the lesson.
You’re going to heal up that foot and return to compete your senior year, but that will be your last season. In college, you’ll try to control everything again. It will be ALL academics ALL the time. You feel like you have to get 100% on everything and spend way too much time studying and trying to be perfect.
And just like that, you’ve already forgotten the lesson.
Julie, what I want to say to you now is that it’s okay. It’s okay to work hard, but it’s also okay to not be perfect. Allow yourself the room for errors. Make the mistakes. You might learn from them.
All my love, even if you make a mistake,
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