I believe that each of us needs a space where we are free from our worries, where we can truly breathe and clear our minds.
I think I have always known that I would become a social worker, even before it made any sense to me. Now I better understand the attraction. I believe in the power of relationships, of the connection developed between individuals that can be the catalyst for real change. So you’d think being a social worker would be easier for me. It has not been easy. The connection, the empathy part, comes naturally. I find it challenging to not see the validity of both perspectives, both sides of a story. Even when I look for black and white, for some clarity in the chaos, I usually can see only gray. I am still waiting to feel competent, to not worry about my clients or lose sleep at night. I am still waiting to find the balance that will allow me to continue in this field; to be fully present and care deeply, without burning out in the next few years.
Thank God I have gymnastics. Tuesday evening always rolls around, regardless of how long of a work week it’s already been. On Tuesday evenings, I stand anonymously outside of the gym, wearing a tank top and shorts over my leotard, waiting for class to begin. Only on Tuesdays can I almost pass for a carefree teenager.
At gymnastics, I am not asked to be knowledgeable or have the answers to difficult and pressing questions. I am certainly not asked to be in charge. I am only asked to be present. And for starters, to stretch down to one side. Then over to the other. It is difficult for your mind to wander too far with your face pressed down into your knee, or standing on your hands. Then we move on to tumbling; front handsprings, round-off back handsprings, aerials, back tucks. My mind is both sharp and relaxed. I rely on muscle memory and concentration. My intellect, education, and sound judgment won’t help me here.
Occasionally, I’ll realize I’ve forgotten to leave my professional self at the gym door. I will get frustrated, or bemoan having a bad gym day. I will go back and forth about why a tumbling pass did not go well. “Don’t think so much!” my coach hollers, kindly, from across the gym. “Don’t make this complicated!” And that brings me back, helps keep me in check. Because this isn’t complicated. This is gymnastics.
Maybe one day I will be able to clearly and eloquently articulate the beliefs that led me to and keep me in social work. Maybe the personal complexities will even become clearer to me. But until then I have gymnastics, where I am young, light, energetic and carefree, stretching down to one side, flying around a bar, or flipping through the air. Until then, I have a space that is all for me, where I can breathe.
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