When I was in about 6th grade, I was a full head taller than almost all of the boys. It felt awkward enough walking single file down the hall to lunch or recess. But it felt even more awkward high up on the balance beam.
I worked hard to be a straight A student and it seemed fairly effortless until it came to the gymnastics unit in P.E. Oh I could nail the vault and hold my own on the unevens, but the balance beam was my nemesis. I was sure I was going to fail, which made me mad. And I was sure I was going to fall, which made me afraid.
I had a lot to learn, but one of the best lessons I took away from that 3-4 weeks was the value of practice. The word grit must be short for gritting one’s teeth, because that’s pretty much what I did. I gritted my teeth and dug in. I spend more time on the beam than on any other piece of equipment. I’m sure I did fall, but all I recall about it now is that your body and your ego might be a bit bruised, but you can get back up after you fall and try again.
It’s most likely that any inkling of grace or skill I might have had was imagined, and that A I received in gymnastics was simply for meeting a minimum of proficiency. But that practice upon practice gave me confidence and somehow that pulled me through to finish the course and maintain that A average.
I conquered the balance beam. (Someday I will tell you about my battle with the deep end of the pool hashtag: “12 feet isn’t deep.”)
[Day 16 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]