Carmen’s College Essay

Carmen Bebbington, Editor-in-Chief

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        I hadn’t returned to England for three years. I missed my friends, my family, my coach. I missed the countryside roads, the bramble bushes lining my driveway, the red door to my house…

        I was ten when we moved to Massachusetts. It wasn’t my first time moving, but it was harder than others before. I was three when we moved to England from Colorado, young enough to forget what I left behind, and I was five when we moved to Peru. Although Lima was initially difficult – learning Spanish wasn’t easy – I found common ground with my classmates: most of us were English, did gymnastics, and grew up travelling. Plus, I knew that I would be returning home… to my countryside roads, to my red door.

        Moving to Massachusetts was different – it took time to find my place. The people I met had only ever lived in the same small town, and I felt as though they didn’t understand real challenges like I thought I did. They didn’t know about five-year-olds selling candies beside the highway in Lima. They glorified England based on its stereotypes and didn’t understand that hardships exist there, too. Worst of all, they didn’t even realize their ignorance.

        One thing that comforted me during each move was my sport. A gymnast ever since I could remember, I trained 24-30 hours-per-week, commuted 100-miles round-trip, and spent my weekends competing. It was all worth it – I loved gymnastics, and I was good at it.

        Then, in 2014, I fractured my back. It was the first injury to keep me out of the gym, and I felt lost having so much free time. I hated being stuck at home and feeling like I was falling behind. I hated watching my teammates compete, desperately wanting to join them. And I hated that I had become someone who hated so many things.

        In December, though, my luck changed. My father was presenting in Manchester and offered to bring me along. When we arrived two weeks later, I was overwhelmed with emotion. As we drove home, I looked out the window and took everything in. I wanted to remember every little detail so that once I returned, I could close my eyes and relive this moment.

        The next morning I visited the gym to see my former coach. As the gymnasts practiced, Cerys shared her plans for one girl, Eleanor: English Championships this year, British Championships next, and hopefully secure a spot on the national team – all of which had been my plan before I moved.

        Eleanor reminded me of myself in ways beyond her gymnastics; she was also eleven (just older than I was before I moved), small, and blonde. She even wore an old leotard of mine – one I had donated to the gym years earlier.

        Watching Eleanor train, I felt jealous. To me, her life was perfect; she had everything that I had wanted to so badly and worked so hard for, but gave up when we moved.

        Later at lunch, Cerys spoke more about Eleanor – how she was a hard worker and a promising athlete. Honestly, I didn’t want to hear it. She then went on to explain how difficult Eleanor’s childhood had been: she was raised by a single parent, her mother worked three jobs, and occasionally she missed practice because she couldn’t afford the petrol. Hearing that, I realized Eleanor made sacrifices that never occurred to me at her age.

        Sitting there, I realized that I had become the person I couldn’t stand. I was the one who didn’t understand real challenges, and I hadn’t noticed my hypocrisy.

        This trip was more than just a journey home. After being so caught up in details of my life that weren’t perfect, I’d forgotten what was truly important. And, thanks to a certain little girl, I found my way back on track.

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