Fear Not

February 1, 2008
By Ranna Nix, Brooks, GA

The clock promptly read 8:13 p.m. I sat nervously in the car with sweat dripping off of my hands. As we arrived at the gym, I realized I finally reached the time to meet my doom. The sky remained pitch black outside of the passenger window. I gripped the handle of car door and pushed against it ever so slightly. Cautiously, I slid out of the clammy leather seat. My feet dropped to touch the cold, hard asphalt. I hesitantly crossed the parking lot and walked through the black double doors. They locked tightly behind me. I stood and stared at the royal blue mat, my enemy, my life.

I sat down and began my stretches. First, to the right. Then, to the left. As I pushed myself up into the bridge position, I felt my back pop several times. It had been quite a while since I was last here. Immediately after stretching, I tentatively headed toward the tumble track. I warmed up a back handspring. I, next, moved on to the double handspring. After that, I performed a flawless back handspring tuck, a skill I, determined, but terrified, needed to master that night on the floor.

Into the gym walked my coach. As he dropped his keys, he stared at me. I knew through the look in his eyes that he wanted that tuck for me as badly as I did. I approached the corner of the mat with my eyes still looking at the floor. There I stood, staring at my white Infinity tennis shoes, transferring my weight from my toes to my heels. I could not believe I was about to throw this with no assistance. It was just me, myself and I. I heard the steady hum of the dim-lit florescent lights. Creeping from the vent, I felt the cold air on the back of my neck giving me shivers. All of a sudden, fear smothered me. Questions began to arise in my head. What if this, what if that? Just go!

I sprinted as the tune from Chariots of Fire slowly played in my head. I started the round off. Accomplished. Then, the back handspring. Accomplished. Now, to the impossible: the tuck. Mission failed miserably. I fell hard onto the vindictive surface of the unforgiving mat. My unprotected knees burned as they scraped the carpeted plane. The impact of the fall felt like it rivaled that of a car crash. I lied there motionless as tears filled my eyes. Why me?

Physically, I lied there only hurt a small amount. Emotionally, I lied there scarred for life. I felt like I let myself down. I felt like the royal blue mat conquered me. I could not have let this happen. As I lied there and wallowed in my own misery, I knew I must get up, recover, and try it again. I carried myself to the corner again with slow, short strides in an effort to attempt the impracticable skill again. I started with a quicker-paced run. My footsteps hit the floor in rhythm with my beating heart. I closed my eyes and let my muscle memory kick in and guide me through the challenge. Before I knew it, I actually attempted it and landed solid. I showed that royal blue mat then and there who was boss.

If anything, from this experience, I learned I possess an enormous amount of willpower. I did not realize my strength of mind. My determination kept me going even when I thought I had given up. It pushed me to improve my character. Now, I firmly believe to “never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” (A Cinderella Story).

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