Sometimes life teaches us lessons in unexpected ways and the Tour of Gymnastics Superstars in Chicago was a perfect example of that for me.
When I was four years old, my dad enrolled me in gymnastics and gymnastics quickly became my favorite thing in the world. Gymnastics brought me more joy than I could ever describe and I dreamed every day of one day going to the 2012 Olympics. People didn't know me as just Jen; they knew me as Jen the gymnast. I was competing by the time I was seven and my coaches noticed that I was advancing quickly in gymnastics, which is why I transferred gyms to train with a more experienced coach who had gotten gymnasts to the U.S. national team and even the Olympics.
Things couldn't have been going any better in gymnastics, and then in 2006 I began having pain in my wrist. I went to the doctor expecting to hear I had a sprain. However, everything changed when the doctors discovered that the pain in my wrist wasn't a sprain -- it was from a connective tissue and bone disease. The doctors told me I never would do gymnastics again. Both my world and my Olympic dream came crashing down in that doctors' office.
In the six years since that appointment, I've undergone 22 surgeries and the emotional pain of not being able to do gymnastics has been often just as painful as the physical pain.
This past weekend, I went to the Tour of Gymnastics Superstars in Chicago. While watching the show, I couldn't help from feeling bittersweet. I grew up dreaming of going to the 2012 Olympics and watching the show was the realization that my Olympic dream is really gone. I kept wondering what would have been in gymnastics if I had been healthy. As those thoughts ran through my head, I realized that sometimes you just have to let go of what could have been and embrace the journey you are on, which was the unexpected lesson I learned at the gymnastics show.
As hard as it is, I just have to accept the fact that I'll never again be Jen the gymnast and I just have to embrace who I am now, which is the founder of a national charity and a survivor. I will always be a gymnast in my heart and the gymnast inside of me will always remain. After the show, I even got to meet Olympians Aly Raisman, Nastia Liukin and Jon Horton, and thank them for being involved with my charity, Cards for Hospitalized Kids.
This was an unexpected, but, really good lesson to learn which is why I wanted to share it. I also highly recommend going to see the Tour of Gymnastics Superstars when it comes to your town. It's an incredible show filled with great gymnastics, lights, music, costumes and so much more!