Finally Magnificent

At 15, I had no idea that I had my whole life ahead of me. It's bittersweet to think that those memories of the hours I spent in the gym are still so vivid. I was a competitive gymnast when I was younger, and I cannot express in words how much the Magnificent 7 team meant to me at the time. I studied them for a long time (back when you had to record TV with the VHS) before they won the team gold for the USA, and I felt as I had won right along with them.

The Magnificent 7 , Atlanta 1996 Olympic Gold Medalists

The Magnificent 7, Atlanta 1996 Olympic Gold Medalists

I am still overwhelmed with pride watching this new Olympic gold-medal winning team. To be able to share this moment now with my two children and be able to show them that, hey, anything is possible. Despite the fact that they resemble Laurie Hernandez more than Gabby Douglas or Simone Biles, the can benefit from seeing a multi-cultural dynamic at work. I hope they are able to understand and appreciate their own multicultural background through these immensely positive images.

Laurie Hernandez, Rio 2016 Olympics Via  USA Gym  

Laurie Hernandez, Rio 2016 Olympics Via USA Gym 

By that age, I was watching my gymnast body "deteriorate" as I was becoming full-fledged woman (for years, others would constantly comment that I looked like a little girl--to some, I still do). It was a time of grappling with the loss of an identity, puberty, and finding a new place to fit in on top of the pressures I was already facing. Maybe that where mentally I took a turn I wish I had never taken. I met with a lot of the wrong things at this juncture, and, in hindsight, I can see how dedicated and dependent I was with my life as a gymnast. By this point, I pretty much a below average gymnast. After a broken leg, reconstructive finger surgery and a whole host of other issues, I should have been done long before that. But the 1996 AAU junior olympics are still a source of pride for me 20 years later. To touch the same equipment of these American heroes (1996 Olympic gymnastic team): I can't replace that feeling.

Dominique Dawes Alanta 1996 Olympic Games  Via  

Dominique Dawes Alanta 1996 Olympic Games Via 

So fast forward to 2014 and meeting Dominique Dawes at another pivotal point in my life; I can't even describe it to this day. I met her in my own parish as I was rediscovering my faith during their RCIA program.  She is my  "Michael Jordan", so to finally meet her on the day I was being welcomed into the church, I took it as a sign that I was on the right path.

Not the most flattering photo, but a memorable one. Michelle and Dominique Dawes, Bethesda, MD 2014

Not the most flattering photo, but a memorable one. Michelle and Dominique Dawes, Bethesda, MD 2014

So I want to take the good from this feeling I'm having right now as the tears sprint down my face. I miss it a lot. It saved my life. I just want to tap in to all the lessons I learned then and seemingly cast away at a certain point trying to fit in. I am so lucky. My gymnastics dreams didn't come true then, but I am working towards a new dream now. It's is important to always remember where you come from while on your journey to where you are going. Congrats Simone, Aly, Gabby, Laurie and Madison!

And to Gabby Douglas, remember this line from Rico Richie: "If you ain't got no haters, you ain't poppin". #LOVE4GABBYUSA