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 thought I would always love doing rhythmic. I thought the numerous, murky reasons that caused so many others to quit would never affect me. Why would anyone want to quit rhythmic, when rhythmic was the best part of life?
I couldn't have guessed it would've happened so soon.
Last spring, I seriously contemplated a "normal" life -- one without gymnastics. I pictured all the advantages: enough sleep, no over-exhaustion, more time to see my friends. I thought it'd be paradise. I knew, however, that this possibility was slight at best. Rhythmic was my life. Besides, the idea was too foreign, too farfetched to be seriously considered.
As final exams approached, I asked my mom whether or not I could take some dance classes. Everything in my life seemed so perfunctory and dull; the same cycle of school, gymnastics, and homework each day. Dance interested me -- it was something new, something refreshing. So I began attending dance classes in Cambridge, and not only was it fun, but it made me incredibly happy.
As Junior Olympics approached, training became more stressful and volatile; some days would be good, others disastrous. More and more, I found myself frustrated or crying after training. Every day I asked myself, "Do I still want to do rhythmic? Do I still love it?" And the worst part was that I wasn't sure. Had I really stopped loving rhythmic? When had this happened? And more importantly, how? The questions played incessantly in my head, but I couldn't find any answers.
I carried this burden through the end of the school year, through Junior Olympics, and still the answers eluded me. Late in June I began going to dance classes pretty frequently, and suddenly one day I made a brash decision.
"Mom, I don't think I want to do rhythmic anymore," I said. It not only drained my physical energy, but also exhausted me emotionally. I was tired of coming home upset and angry, tired of doubting myself and my rhythmic ability. I imagined taking up dance instead; competing without as much pressure, having fun every time, being happier. It seemed like a perfect alternative -- that is, until I actually considered it in detail.
If I started dance -- if I were to be serious about it, would I actually be happier? I puzzled over this, comparing the two possible lifestyles. Could I really live without rhythmic?
The answer, as I've figured out since my injury, is no. Everything that's done for fun is always enjoyable, but if I got serious about dance, the same dilemmas would arise. With rhythmic, not only do I have much more experience, but I also do it with people I love.
I haven't trained since the end of July, and by the first week in September, I started feeling an inexpressible longing to return to training. At a new school, I wanted nothing more than to do a sport that I was accustomed to, something that was familiar and natural to me. And yet, I was restricted by my injury.
As I sit out counting down the days until I can return to full-out training, however, I am grateful for my temporary break. Sitting out helped me realize that I do love rhythmic, even the hard days, because nothing could completely replace it.