Amanda and Elaine Dai are sisters and competitive rhythmic gymnasts who train at Rhythmic Dreams in Newton, Massachusetts. "Rhythmic Diaries" is their account of balancing training and competing in this rigorous sport with being normal high school students.
I tentatively hobble into the gym. Each squeak of rubber against wood causes me to flinch. After days of doctor's appointments, I finally have the chance to come back to watch our summer camp show. I can see the carpet where my teammates are settled, and I want nothing else but to run over and sit with them. The only problem is the fact that I'm on crutches.
Though I should pay attention to where I'm walking, my eyes are involuntarily drawn to my teammate as she performs. I cannot tear my gaze from the sport I love so much; I cheer loudly for her as she finishes, completely forgetting my attempt to make a quiet entrance. Once I finally arrive at the carpet, heads turn curiously towards me. At the sight of my crutches, the girls' eyes mist over with pity. Soon I'm pounded with questions:
"How long are you on crutches?"
"Are you getting surgery?"
"When are you coming back?"
I wince at the barrage of concerned voices, and a surge of sorrow floods over me. I do not know the answers to any of their questions; only two days ago my doctor told me I couldn't train for at least three months due to an injury in my hip. If someone had told me last week that I wasn't going to be training for so long, I would have laughed straight in their face. Now, I'm not so sure.
I try to hide my sorrow with an unconvincing smile. I tell them I'm not sure how long it'll be until I'm able to train again. Their anxious expressions fade into blank stares, not knowing how to react. Those who regain some composure give me hugs and reassuring words, but they know as well as I do that recovery will probably take a significant amount of time.
Trying to lighten the mood, I give a shaky laugh and change the subject quickly. Today I want to enjoy the camp show with the team and coaches, the very show I was scheduled to perform in only a few days ago. For 20 wonderful, fleeting minutes, I forget about my injury and focus on the performers and my friends beside me. We joke around and laugh, erasing any worries that dominated my thoughts before.
However, after watching more and more of my teammates doing their routines, an irrepressible pang of longing bursts in my chest. Soon I find myself not paying attention to what they are doing, but instead looking at their expressions. Their love for our sport crafts the genuine smiles on their faces, something that usually makes me incredibly happy. Today, however, it has the opposite effect on me. Tears rush to the brims of my eyes and threaten to spill over. I try my best to blink them back, but despite my efforts, they leak down my cheeks one after another.
Questions overwhelm me in an instant. Why did I have to be injured? Why did it have to happen now? Why am I sitting here as a spectator, unable to train, while I really belong with the crowd of girls in their leotards performing? Only one question continually haunts me: When can I train again? I should know this, I think. Why don't I know the answer? Different doctors have told me different things, but I don't know which to believe. Here I am, out of gymnastics for an unknown time, doing conservative treatment -- resting and confined to crutches -- even though it may not improve the condition.
Pull yourself together, I think, squeezing my eyes shut and biting my lip. I swipe at the stray tears that continue to run down my face, getting impatient with my inability to stop crying. Stop it; you're being overly dramatic. I scowl at my incompetence. I am suddenly extra grateful for the girls performing now, diverting everyone's attention somewhere else. Only my teammates realize, but they courteously give me space and don't ask any questions. I take deep, trembling breaths until my sniffling finally stops and my eyes dry out.
By the end of the show, the airy happiness returns and I am smiling so much that my cheeks hurt. It's amazing that I managed to break down minutes ago, because now, even as I say goodbye to my friends, grief does not overwhelm me while I hug them awkwardly around my crutches. As I make my way to the car, I hear different people's words ring in my head: stay strong; do everything to get well; take enough time to recover -- better to fully heal before training again. And for the first time, the idea of resting does not dampen my spirits; instead, a small grin spreads across my face.
I realize that although I will be out for months, I am not alone on the long road to recovery.