‘Somersaulting’ Through Life

by Patrick Liew on August 1, 2011

I have always wanted to do a somersault.

When I was young, I was quite an athlete. I played almost every game in school.

From football, basketball, running to swimming, I enjoyed all kinds of games. I have also participated in many other non-mainstream games.

For example, I played a mean ‘chapteh’, a heritage game which was played by kicking a shuttlecock made of feathers with quills attached to a rubber base.

I was also pretty good at ‘kuti kuti’. This was played by using your fingers to flick a plastic figurine over that of your competitors.

If you could skillfully land it on the other figurine, you are entitled to own it. As the ‘kuti kuti king’, I used to go home with loads of figurines.

I wish I can tell you more about the fun I had with many other games. There won’t be enough space to share about them in this Love Note.

The sports I enjoyed the most was gymnastics. For many wonderful afternoons, my friends and I would lay out simple mats and we would experiment with different moves.

Mr Goh Ek Khoon, our coach was a very good man but he was not a gymnast. He was unable to demonstrate the techniques to us.

However, he took great pain to explain how every tumble and turn could be executed. Mostly, we learned through trials and errors.

I could do many of the floor exercises except one – a somersault. For many reasons, I had great fear about doing it and so, I never quite attempted it.

I stopped practising gymnastics at the age of twelve. Somehow, I have always felt I never quite reached my full potential in the game.

As I grew older, it became harder and harder to hit the mats again. There were many reasons that made it almost impossible for me to learn gymnastics again – until recently.

I found a gymnastics studio near our office that was used predominantly by kids. Many of the older gymnasts who were there looked to me like they were seasoned athletes.

One day, found the courage to ask one of the coaches if I could train with some of the students. You could imagine the surprise on his face.

At that point in time, I was in shape. (Who says round is not a shape?)

I was young at heart but only old in the other parts.

It took a lot of persuasion to convince the coach I won’t litter the gym with any of my bones.

At the beginning, a typical session would go like this. The coach would tell the students, “C’mon, you can do it! Don’t give up! Push it!”

He would then turn to me and said, “Patrick, why don’t you take a rest. Take it easy, ok?”

One of the ‘kiddos’ asked me, “Uncle, why are you doing this? Are your father and mother also forcing you to excel in sports?”

When I whispered to some of my friends about my new found sports, they responded mostly in shock and horror.

I assured them I intended to live for as long as I was alive and forever, or die in the attempt. They didn’t think my joke was funny.

To be fair to all these well-intentioned people, they knew my head was in the right place. They just didn’t want my body to fall apart. 

I would be lying if I told you I was not discouraged. Believe me, their warnings were amplified in different forms through my heart and mind.

I wanted to give up – not once but many times.

Fortunately, I learned long time ago that what people say to me can be useful feedback. However, they should never stand in the way of progress.

 Growing old is not a problem. Feeling and behaving old is.

At the beginning, it was very tough for me. I couldn’t catch up with the class.

I was being left behind – physically and emotionally.

My muscles and bones would be aching within a short period of time. On many occasions, I walked back to the office feeling like a loser.

Before the next class, my brain would say, “Let’s go!” My legs would  say, “You go first!”

Every part of my being was telling me to give up – to pursue another sports. To make matters worse, I suffered some injuries and that brought my spirit really down.

I was tempted to postpone my pursuit. It was alluring to believe in words like, “You can always do it at another time.”

My dream kept me going.

I was totally committed to fulfill my goal. It meant a lot to me to execute a somersault.

Doing a somersault was a metaphor to reinforce the potential and talents our Creator has given me. It stood in my way mentally and emotionally at that point in time to attain a higher level of achievements.

This compelling purpose kept the flame in my heart burning. I surrounded myself with different motivators to drown the negativity.

I was mindful that it was not enough to have a positive mental attitude, I needed to take action. Not just any action – but massive action.

I researched about how to be a good gymnast and put together a plan to fulfill my objective.

I believed I worked harder than many students by practicing outside of the gymnasium and training schedule.

Little by little, I began to exercise in sync with the rest of the class. I was able to do many of the difficult techniques.

Once, I did a series of backflips with the help of my coach. It was so well done, he told me, “At the rate you are going, you can perform at our Annual Concert. Many parents and guests will be there.”

That evening, I almost ran back to my Mama’s home to break the good news to her.

I ended up just telling my wife and daughters. My daughters told me, ”Daddy, we will definitely stand on the chairs and clap for you”.

You have to understand it’s their way of taking ‘revenge’ on a father who delighted in ‘embarrassing’ them every now and then. It was all done in good fun.

For many months, I sweated.

I stretched myself. I trained very hard.

On 6 November 2010, at about 6.30pm, I faced the mat in front of me. My heart was at peace and my body, ready.

Beads of sweat were running down my forehead. I took a deep breath and ran forward.

It was like time stood still for me. Every person in the gym was frozen, holding their breath as they watched me take every single step.

Just before reaching the mat, I leapt.

I tucked my head while holding my legs.

I spinned in the air.

I completed the somersault and landed on my feet.

It was not the best somersault but I did it!

I hope you enjoyed reading this story.

 More importantly, I hope you realized there is a story behind the story and I pray it will inspire you to success.


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