Tuesday, January 4, 2011


There is a sign over my bike rack that says “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.” It’s a quote from Lance Armstrong. When running a few miles, I can make it without quitting and never give it a second thought. Putting all my male bravado aside though, I’m not so naive as to think there is never a good time to give in. At what point is it alright to quit? Must everything we begin be persevered through until death or we are a failure? How about something you have been involved in for many years? Is there value in forcing yourself to continue a pursuit when you really can’t find joy in doing it anymore?

I wish I were talking about one of my crazy hobbies or endeavors. Unfortunately, I’m talking about Jakob and gymnastics. He has stated and firmly believed for the past several years, and I have believed as well, that he was going to win the Olympics. He has attacked the sport with an uncommon persistence and tenacity. His work ethic in the gym is strong and easy to see as he is never resting, despite me telling him he needs it. When the other boys relax and joke around he is doing another set. He has occasionally had days or short periods of time where his motivation has waned but for the most part, he would bounce back immediately and more ferocious. I have always told him that staying the course when you don’t feel like it is the difference between those who make it and those who fall by the way.

Over the last several months however, he has been seriously questioning whether or not to stay in the sport. He has always hated the meets and the judging. This is completely understandable. I don’t know anybody who really enjoys being openly critiqued and judged. For a child with some social anxiety, it is a highly stressful event competing in front of peers, bleachers full of parents and a formal judge watching and grading your every move. In the past, he has always been able to get past these feelings for meets because he enjoyed being on the team. He loves his teammates and his coach. He loves pushing himself harder in the gym. Lately however, even going to the gym for practice is becoming a difficult task that he sometimes agonizes over.

As parents we are torn by the advice we choose to give to him. We have never told him he must continue, except that he must finish any season he begins. We do strongly feel he must be involved in some sort of regular physical exercise but have always made it clear that he is the one to choose the activity. On the one hand it would seem like a terrible waste of talent to see him give it up, but again, which talent he chooses to develop is not our decision to make. Do we persuade him to continue pushing because he could be great? Is that a good enough reason to push him at the risk of him eventually resenting us and the sport that has taught him so much? I don’t think it is worth the risk or in his best interest.

Where would I be if I hadn’t moved through so many activities in life? I personally have traded full fledged involvement from one activity to another several times. From roller skating and skateboarding I went to rock climbing. From climbing I went to skydiving. From skydiving I went to running and cycling. Those are just some the ones I have spent significant time practicing. There have been lots of other short, month or two long passions, like Yo Yo, knife throwing, martial arts and even break dancing. I was a 14 when the movie "Breakin" came out. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. If I hadn’t changed my direction in life numerous times I don’t think I would be the same person I am now at all. I might not have met all of the new friends each new activity has brought with it. I also know first hand how even something you love to do, something that you could never dream growing tired of, can become a daily grind that you begin to resent and dread.

Jakob has some big decisions to make. As with everyone, he often changes his mind. This week he is in love with the gym again, but last week he was completely burned out. It has been such a large part of his life, I think it scares him a little to imagine being without it. I have no doubt that he will stay active and be a shining star in any activity he pursues. We try hard to gently coax and instruct but ultimately we must let go and allow him to decide his own path.

Week of December 20 – Bike 48, Run 23
Week of December 27 – Bike 48, Run 20

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