If you could talk to yourself as a child, what wisdom would you share?
Gold medalist Aly Raisman spent the holidays pondering that same question as she prepared to confirm that she won’t be competing in the Tokyo Olympics. After coming up with her answer, the 25-year-old posted a moving letter about the ups and downs of her gymnastics career on social media.
“The past 10 years have been such a whirlwind that I haven’t really processed all that has happened, and sometimes I wonder if I ever will,” she wrote.
As an 8-year-old, she remembers watching a recording of the 1996 Olympics and practicing their routines over and over again until she got them just right. She imagined standing on that podium and still seems to have a hard time believing her dream came true — more than once.
As we all do as we grow older, Raisman discovered she has many moments to celebrate with young Aly. She’d tell herself stories about the wonderful people she’s met and the milestones she’s achieved and watch her inner 8-year-old shine:
I envision her eyes lighting up and a smile spreading across her face as she learns she will one day be like those gymnasts she watched on TV, and that she will inspire some other little girl to cartwheel around her house, dreaming of one day competing at the Olympics. The power of dreams is too big to put into words, but I’d try anyway since it is what makes magic happen.
Of course, she’s also faced many trials. Those would be hard to share with her younger self, but if she did mention the biggest challenges of her life, she would promise herself that she’ll always come out stronger.
“I would tell her that it is often in our darkest hours, when we feel most vulnerable and alone, that we realize our greatest growth,” she said.
Then she gave herself an incredible reminder that what matters most isn’t what we accomplish — it’s how we live along the way.
It’s easy to lose sight of what really brings us joy, which is why Raisman is working so hard now to make the gymnastics world safer and healthier for the little girls who dream of being just like her.
What an incredible role model! Thank you, Raisman, for being so authentic and vulnerable with the world. We know little Aly would be proud of the woman you’ve become!
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