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These last few weeks Maya’s gymnastics training has really stepped up. She is learning elements elite gymnasts practiced during the Olympic Trials this summer. The transition from her last level to her new one is, in my view, very tough, and as her coach has emphatically stated, “real gymnastics” has now begun.

The rips in her wrists are deeper and the bruising in her body is punishing. The conditioning is tougher and the pressure to perform, to learn, and to try harder is constant as well. The push to go faster, stronger and further doesn’t end.

Then there’s fear. Not the kind of insidious fear that destabilizes a childhood, but the kind of fear that can cripple an athlete. She’s 13 and she understands it, feels it, can name it, and can taste it. It’s a pivotal moment in her life as a gymnast, and as of today, she thrives despite her daily, hand-to-hand combat with fear.

I know these are unique life lessons she will carry with her for the rest of her life. I never faced fear in my childhood and when I did as an adult, the truth is that I was ill-equipped to confront it. I was (and am) a soft-skinned mollusk fully panicked when exposed to the elements.But she’s not me.

She’s that other version of me, the one  I aspire to be