I’m kind of obsessed with Instagram. This is hardly shocking. But I’m not going there to do the things we love to do on social media (i.e. compare ourselves to others, or vent and get pulled into vicious back-and-forths on hot button issues).
Nope. I’m addicted to watching kids doing flips. Like really really really cool flips. Back flips. Front flips. Side flips. Twists. Tricks I wouldn’t have even dreamed were possible when I was a kid, and my big trick was splits on the beam.
It’s because I spent a good part of the summer reporting a long story for The New York Times about Gtramp. If I had a conversation with you over the summer, I’m sure I mentioned it, because it consumed me. For those of you who didn’t get an earful from me about what Gtramp is, let me tell you . . .
(Option B is to just go read the story here.)
Gtramp is a freestyle trampoline phenomenon, mostly involving tween and teenage boys around the world. I want to tell you there are a bunch of girls, too—and there are some (that might be the next story!)—but, as of now, it’s fairly boy-dominated. I got interested because I’ve got a Gtramp son of my own. We have four trampolines, a tower bounce, and several mattresses in our backyard (yeah, it’s exactly as sketchy as it sounds).
These kids are basically self-taught elite athletes, doing extremely difficult tricks on their backyard trampolines, and sometimes getting sponsored by trampoline brands. Everyone tells them they should be in gymnastics or doing competitive trampoline, or just something else. And these kids are like, “Thanks but no thanks.” They’re not going to be rounded up, told what to do, and asked to bring a snack to the next practice.
They’re a bit irreverent, and I wish they didn’t use curse words to congratulate each other on new tricks in their comments on posts, or at least just not on my 10-year-old’s posts. But . . . whatever. I just love watching them. Now that I know who is who in the community, I can’t look away. I watch their videos in anticipation. How many triple backs in a row was that? How many twists and flips did he even do?
I watch my own kid out the window too, and I love it. But it usually scares me too much to have a pure reaction. It’s usually more like, “That was so awesome! But, uh, please don’t do it again.”
I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so drawn to watching these kids. Partly, I want to be an involved parent.
The other part is that there is something in my mind/body wiring that makes me keep seeking the next iteration of this part of my identity.
Here’s what I mean.
My older sisters were gymnasts, so from a young age, I was tumbling in the backyard with them and trying tricks on the balance beam (the above pic is circa 1983—I used to drape our homemade beam with rags to prevent getting splinters). Then I competed in gymnastics for six years. When I quit, I started coaching gymnastics. When I quit coaching, I started judging gymnastics. After I quit judging when I had kids and was too busy, I eventually went back to an adult gymnastics class (and wrote about it). And now, here I am at the next iteration—walking through this world of extreme acrobatics with my kid (that’s him below) and following all of his fellow flippers on Instagram.
In high school, I had this kooky teacher. I think she was eventually fired for being a nut, but I do remember one thing she said that meant something to me. She said that from the time she was a little girl, she was always drawing whirling figures and doodling spirals. She realized eventually that it was because she was a dancer, and even after she stopped dancing, she still drew them, because it was just part of her.
I still dream about doing gymnastics. I still feel the movements in my body. I can’t do most of them anymore (though I do post some of my efforts on my own Instagram). Still, I keep seeking the next iteration of that part of myself. I don’t know if it finds me, or I find it. Probably both.
I think adults would be happier in general if we stayed more open to the next iteration, instead of merely folding the chapters behind us.
I bet there’s another iteration of some essential part of you, too. Because there are so many more chapters than we think.