04/10/2015 06:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Those Better Than Me

It's a chilling, subzero morning in Boston, and my teachers, perhaps to reflect the bitter cold outside, decide to change their syllabi and leave me with six assessments in three days. On top of that, I have a competition this weekend that will take both days, my hip hurts from the cold and the MBTA that serves as my ride everywhere... well, it's experiencing its usual hour-long delays and disabled trains and buses.

I arrive at training in a foul mood. I don't know what to be upset about, but everything is irritating, from the weather to transportation to school to home. When it's my turn to practice my routine with music, the frustration in my mind still whirls about. I mentally scream at myself to move faster, to reach and catch the clubs even if they're a little far, to push every cell in my body to execute a clean, crisp routine. But it's not enough. I still drop a toss that came down right next to me. My coach stops the music.

"You're not putting in any effort!" she cries, and I flinch at her sharp tone. "That toss was perfect. What else do you need to catch it?!" I quickly redo the toss, but my mind goes blank and I can't focus on what I'm doing. The toss is too far back, and my club lands with a thud on the carpet. My coach dismisses me.

I pick up my club and move to the side, my chest tightening and my body sagging, weighed down by her words. I watch as my younger teammate does her routine, and somewhere she fumbles. But she's not sent away, even as she tries two more times in vain. I scoff bitterly, grinding my teeth together. What does she mean I don't try? I think. She barely gave me another chance. Why do I even bother coming if I hardly get to practice? I have tons of schoolwork to tackle. I could be doing that instead. I inwardly groan at knowing I'd be spending the weekend competing. When am I gonna write that essay? And what about the Orgo test? My head clouds over with what I still have to study, with all the concepts I need to brush up on. All this work, and no time on the weekend...

It's too much. I can't even think about the competition, and I look at the carpet sourly. My coach works with my younger teammate to polish up her routine, adjusting rhythmic steps here, directions there. When they run through it again, the routine looks...incredible. It flows beautifully, bringing out the strengths of the gymnast in her grace and skills.

Why did my teammate get more chances? What about me? Why is this so unfair?

I stop myself; I sound like a 7-year-old. No, this isn't "unfair" -- I come to training because I love it. I don't come for anyone or anything else. I could be sitting at home scraping away at homework, but how unfulfilling would my life be without rhythmic?

I'm 18 years old, heading to college in the fall and the end of my rhythmic career. I've trained with my coach for 12 years. I've had my share of the limelight. And as I watch my teammate soar through her routine, and all the younger girls that practice arduously on the sides, I realize this is it: this is the next generation that has surpassed me in potential.

I sigh. I know there will always be people better than me, whether they are younger or older, whether it is in gymnastics or in other areas in life. Instead of feeling bitter, I should aspire to emulate their strengths. It's easier said than done, but not impossible. I want to learn from them, to grow stronger and to improve myself doing what I love.

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