Tag Archives: gymnastics

Spreading love like cinnamon sugar on buttered toast.

I am not a quitter. It’s a word I struggled with one February night as I pulled apart my slice of cheese pizza in a dimly lit kitchen, taking my frustration and angst out on the soft crust, the saucy, cheesy mess. I punctuated each word with another tear, another rip of bread.

But sometimes, you have to acknowledge that holding off on one thing might make everything else better. When you’re being sucked down, you have to figure out what the anchor is and reel it in.

When I was thirteen and frustrated, that anchor was competitive gymnastics. A year or so ago, that anchor was the person I’d become. Right now, that anchor is the reverb challenge, taking away from all the other posts I could be writing. All the other words you want to skim through. This world, this blog, is not about me. It is about all of you, and all of the wonderful people I’ve encountered. I don’t want you to forget that.

Having said that, this is my letter to my ex-boyfriend, as coinciding with the letter challenge. This one is going to spread some love like butter and cinnamon sugar on a slice of toast on a Sunday morning.

via weheartit.com

Dear Juan,

On any given month, I waver between whether or not I made the right choice. Not in ending our relationship, but in allowing you to start it. It’s the million-dollar question, the one that nobody ever wants to ask, but the one so many keep coming back to. Would it have been better, in the beginning, to just be friends? Hold onto that friendship and still be able to talk like nothing happened now, or to give it a shot?

I can honestly say, with certainty, that I made the right decision. If I had to go back to that night in your car, idling in my driveway at two a.m., I wouldn’t change my answer. Because I believe we’re completely different people because of it. I think we were two kids—me barely eighteen and you barely nineteen—who thought we owned the world. Fresh out of high school and not yet freshmen in college.

And we did own the world for a while, like all naïve high school kids do.

I believe that you forced me to grow up. If it weren’t for you, I probably never would have let myself love anyone. Not until I was at least thirty. I probably would have been just fine wasting away my money on fast food milkshakes and sundaes at the diner. I would have been just fine never going beyond that.

But after everything fell apart, I hit rock bottom. You hit rock bottom. We spread our love like cinnamon sugar on buttered toast. So sweet and never enough but rough and bitter after a while. We were all highs and lows with no middle. We sort of headed for it well before sophomore year, but didn’t really admit it. And plenty of other people would have stuck it out, but neither of us would’ve done what we wanted. We would have suffocated each other with our own agendas.

You wanted to be in LA in a tux on the set of a movie. And for a while, that seemed like a wonderful idea. But I love NYC. I love being quiet sometimes, writing by myself. You’re the boy with more friends than a girl can keep track of.

You’re a great friend, but a lousy boyfriend. I didn’t figure that out until a few months ago, but you always had this idea of me that didn’t measure up to the Actual Me. The Kaleigh standing in front of you.

I hope I didn’t break you. And if I did, I hope you heal back stronger. Because if you love some girl half as much as you thought you loved me, she’ll be lucky. Just don’t try to change her. This is your life. Accept it and take hold of it.


We're all living in different tenses.

Some people read the Bible, The New York Times, The Washington Post. Some read Catcher in the Rye or 1984 or To Kill A Mockingbird. Others watch a movie on repeat, endlessly cycling through it for some message about life, about mortality.

I read The Truth About Forever, a YA novel written by Sarah Dessen in 2004.

My copy is highlighted and dog-eared, marked with pens and pencils of different colors. It’s the one book I fell in love with instantly, and I don’t regret buying it before reading it.

For me, it’s something to pick up at various points in my life and re-read. And each time, I follow closely along and remember something new I’d forgotten. Each time, the story tells me something different about my life or the world in general. Most often, though, it brings hope.

See, forever is a pretty hard concept to wrap our heads around. We steer clear of the idea of eternity because we cannot fathom it. There is no comparison. The truth about forever, when it comes down to it, is that it’s different for everyone. My forever won’t be the same as your forever or your friend’s forever.

And that’s somewhat of a problem.

If there’s one lasting lesson my gymnastics coach taught me before he died, it’s that we need to focus.

“When you’re at the gym, focus on that,” he said. “When you’re at home, focus on homework.”

He was trying to teach us about time management, about mental preparation and productivity. About the idea that we can only improve upon something we’re working on if that’s where our head’s at, too. And he’s right. He’s oh so right.

We’re all living in different tenses. Past, present, future.

We go to the grocery store and worry about the essay we’re avoiding. We drive down the street to get gas and wonder if we locked our door when we left. We try to listen in class, but we’re thinking about the meeting later and what time we need to leave to make it there on time. Or we’re thinking about the night before, something funny someone said at lunch, some live show we attended last month. The present is never good enough for us.

But it has to be. We have to stop wandering around in our heads, swimming through memories or possibilities that don’t yet exist. We have to stop trying to control what already happened or what isn’t happening yet and focus. Focus on right now, right here, being as good as we can be. Focus on living Here, where we’re stuck forever, instead of There, a moment we may or may not reach. A moment that’s not guaranteed by any means.

Sometimes I feel like my coach knew he was going to die young and suddenly. He knew that the present was more important and that what he had to do, more than anything, was help bestow upon us now this wonderful insight into happiness, into life itself, while we were young and our minds were fresh for sculpting.

The present isn’t waiting. It’s here now. All we have to do is grab onto it.