I can do a backflip now, sorta.

I woke up this morning with the best feeling.

The birds are chirping.

The sun is peeking out.

There’s nothing better than the feeling of spring after a long, hard winter.

Those first glimmers of what’s to come.

It’s what we’ve all been waiting for.

I prefer to run in the mornings, schedule wise, but today, we’re definitely running in the afternoon.

For that peak sun and heat, you know, which, according to my elementary school teacher, occurs not at noon, but at around 1PM because, you know, it takes time for the rays to get here and start warming up the atmosphere or whatever.

Science.

And you gotta get that peak sun, you know, get a little tan.

Because when you’ve got a nice tan, man, it’s like you’re invincible.

Seriously, who can stop you when you’ve got a chill tan, your first chill tan after months of brutal, blistering cold.

(Lol, I’m also hitting the gym and doing my laundry today. GTL, baby!!! BTW, I read a few months ago that they are apparently shooting an upstate NY, like Catskills version of the Jersey Shore. Can’t wait.)

So I’m on my way to Stewart’s this morning.

Stewart’s is this gas station that’s close by in Red Oak’s Mills.

They have the best milk in town. All local and whatnot.

And they give you this little card so when you buy 10, you get one for free.

And I mean, who can say no to a deal on the best milk in town. (Their ice cream is also pretty good, lol.)

But we already have milk. This morning, I’m picking up some eggs.

You guys know how I love eggs.

Anyway, I’m listening to K104, the pop music station, and in the morning they have their like, you know radio show and they talk about stuff.

So apparently they said Poughkeepsie schools are closed today because of a school shooting threat on social media.

Which is just so sad, man.

So sad.

Anyway, onto a lighter note.

So I have this one crew of friends. It’s sort of like my running and workout and like, IDK, lifestyle crew I guess.

Like we have this WhatsApp chat and we like make bets and challenges and we like keep score and stuff.

We recently finished our first round of challenges, so season 2 just started.

So I have a bunch of challenges for myself that I’m supposed to do for the next 10 weeks—like run 20 miles a week, make a bunch of videos, stuff like that.

But I also have some fun stuff, like learn how to do a backflip and a handstand and a muscle up.

So on Monday, I went to my first adult gymnastics class, lol.

It’s this 7 week clinic.

And it’s pretty funny, I found this place online, Mr. Todd’s Gymnastics. They have a website that they must’ve made on Geocities in the 90s.

But overall, the vibes were good, so I gave them a call the other week and signed up.

The receptionist or whoever picked up the phone was super nice. I was like, so uhh… I’m a total newb, that’s kewl right? And she was like YA TOTALLY and like immediately started writing my down onto the list, like, she was almost too eager. And I’m just wondering to myself if I’m gonna be the only person in this class.

Like she was just way too excited to write my name down. I mean it felt good for sure. That acceptance. But it only heightened my anxiety. Sometimes you want them to play hard to get. Sometimes you want a bit of chase.

This was too easy. A bad omen, to be sure.

And obviously, I did some social media stalking. And apparently, my old cello teacher is on their softball team, lol, which is pretty random. (Their team is pretty good, too, they were like undefeated or something. I would expect nothing less, Mr. Handman.)

Oh yeah, speaking of which, I had the most lucid dream last night, like Mr. Handman was conducting a concert in some concert hall or whatever. Ms. Pupko my old calc teacher was there, too, for some reason.

And I could fly, it was great. And I was the only person who could fly, so I felt super kewl. Like, I was standing near the stage and I saw someone up in the auditorium like way up in the back, and I just like up and flew there.

But for whatever reason, no one seemed surprised at all that I could fly, like no one bats an eye like it’s just totally normal that I’m basically a superhero.

And I sit down next to this young girl, she must’ve been like in elementary school, and we just like, talked about life and stuff.

So yeah, if there are any solid dream analyzers out there, hit me up please.

Anyway, so like, I was super chill about signing up for gymnastics class or whatever even though it’s like this totally random thing for an old fart like me to be doing.

I mean, I have literally zero gymnastics experience lol.

But it was like, whatever.

But then Sunday night, one day before the first class, I started to feel the anxiety like, oh crap, WTF am I doing.

Like, who the heck is even gonna be in this class.

It said 16+, which made me super nervous, too. Like, am I gonna be in some class with a bunch of 17 year olds??

And so that anxiety just kept building and building into the next day.

The whole day, I was feeling pretty anxious.

And finally it’s like time to go almost. I send my parents a group text telling them I’m gonna be gone for gymnastics class and dip out super fast. I don’t want them asking too many questions. Parents, you know. They are confused enough as it is about what their 31 year old man child is up to these days.

Sitting in the car, I look up the place and it’s next to the Kmart in the City of Poughkeepsie, right by the Burger King. Burger King, I know where that is. You can get 2 Whoppers for $6. Because who can say no to a good deal on the best fast food burger in town? (This obviously excludes fast casual places like Five Guys. Mmmm… Five Guys. [So I brain farted on the term “fast casual” and had to text ZZ just now so I could continue writing this blog lol.])

So I pull up to the Burger King and I’m like, how can I not see this place, I mean gymnasiums are huge right, so I end up having to put it in Google Maps anyway and end up going in this big loop to like a hidden driveway that goes all the way to the back of this place.

And there it was.

Mr. Todd’s.

I walk in with an older woman close behind me. She must be here for her kid, I think to myself.

And I walk in and it’s like all moms and dads watching their kids.

Oh man, this place was like super intense!!!

Basically all young girls and they’re doing all this crazy stuff.

And I was just like, man, WTF am I doing here?!?!!?

I was at like, peak anxiety.

So I walk up to the receptionist and it must have been like the same one because she was just super duper nice. Like, seriously, this place really has outdone itself with its receptionist hiring.

And we went over the paperwork and her chill vibes like, helped bring down my anxiety from 100 to about a 98 or so.

I had gotten there pretty early, you know, because it’s the first class and all.

You wanna impress your coach, you know.

Show em you mean business.

But that was a mistake.

Because now I’m sitting there, like the only sort of youngish dude among a sea of parents watching their like 12 year old girls tumble around the floor and swing and do flips and somersaults all over the place. This one girl was just like rotating between hanging on the bar and doing pull ups. She did so many pull ups I lost count after a while.

And I mean I was trying not to stare.

I didn’t wanna be creepy.

But man I felt so weird.

Then I make eye contact with one of the parents, and lo and behold, it’s Ken from Cross Court, a part time pro at my old tennis club.

Disaster.

I just sort of like, look down and hope he doesn’t recognize me. I mean it’s been a while. And I look different now, you know. So hopefully he didn’t recognize me.

So I’m just like sitting there like, trying to look busy, eyes glued to my phone trying not to be creepy. I mean I was waiting for a good like, 20 minutes. Yeah, I was way too early. But hey, I was taking my gymnastics class super seriously.

I’m like looking around trying to figure out if any of these parents looking people might be in my class.

There are no obvious candidates.

So 7PM rolls around and the girls are still out there on the floor, tumbling and flipping about. 7PM is when my class is supposed to start but there is no obvious change in the situation at 7PM.

Be patient, I think to myself.

Stay kewl.

They probably run over all the time.

I mean these kids are probably like, training for a competition or something. Who cares about the beginner adults.

By 7:07, I’m like freaking out. Should I say something? I don’t wanna be needy.

Finally, 7:09, and something happens.

A lady comes by to the waiting area and opens the gate, and a bunch of parents looking people get up including one older black dude rocking knee braces on both legs. I mean, he sorta looks fit, I guess. Maybe this is me. But man, these people are kinda old, I’m thinking. I follow them anyway.

I’m the last one through the gate, and the lady is like, this is Senior Stretching.

“Oh whoops, yeah, I’m here for Adult Gymnastics.”

“Oh yeah, you’re over there, just walk around and go talk to those two girls over there.”

And I look over and there are indeed two girls, like trainer looking girls, who are surrounded by a group of like 10- to 14-year old girls.

FML, I think to myself.

WTF have I gotten myself into.

So I start walking over, passing by the entrance where I came and I’m hit by a flicker of temptation to just bolt out the door.

I mean the first lesson is free, like a trial or whatever, so I technically hadn’t paid anything yet, just signed a waiver.

I could bolt and everything would be A-OK.

But I keep walking.

And so I get to the edge of the floor and I take off my shoes and put down my water bottle and walk over to this gaggle of pre-teens and their 2 coaches.

“Uhh, hi, I’m Alec. I’m here for the… Adults Gymnastics class??” I announce super hesitantly.

“Oh yeah, I guess you’re the only one today,” one of the girls tells me while flipping through some papers on her clipboard, finally getting to whatever sheet she was looking for and starts scanning her finger down the lines of text.

“Alec… Alec.. Alec… yes, Alec.”

“I guess you can warm up with us,” she says, as I sit down in this huddle with all these 5th grade females.

FML, I’m just thinking to myself.

My worst nightmare has been realized.

I can feel like all the parents shooting lasers at the back of my head with their eyes, like WTF is this Azn pedophile bro doing huddling up with my precious.

All the girls seem to know what they’re doing, like going through a bunch of like stretching variations and whatever.

I try not to make eye contact with any of them.

Just be chill man, you’re drowning and totally screwed, but just relax.

So I’m just sitting there like, not really stretching or anything, like I don’t want to signal to the parents that I’m like part of this little girls class you know. I just want everyone to feel safe in this super intense pee wee gymnastics environment.

Finally the other girl, who is Asian, incidentally, chirps up.

“So Zion will be leading your class.”

“Oh, kewl, so uhh… where’s Zion?”

“Not doing his job, clearly,” she replies, half exasperated, half joking.

“Which one is Zion?”

“Over there,” she points at this taller young black dude with kewl hair. I had seen him chatting it up with Ken earlier.

Finally Zion walks over and everyone starts standing up now and the coaches are talking amongst themselves on like how to best proceed.

No one else has shown up at this point for the Adult Gymnastics clinic. It’s probably around 7:15 or so. I have no idea where the clock is. (I find out later it’s on the back wall.)

And so they’re like chatting it up, problem solving you know, because they have to deal with me now, and I’m the problem.

Finally Zion looks over to me, and he’s like, “so, what do you wanna do man, what do you wanna learn?”

And I’m like, “uhhhh, IDK, I’m a total beginner, so like, I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

I can see by the scrunch on Zion’s face that this answer displeases him greatly. And the longer I let the my answer stew, the more intensely his face scrunches.

“I mean, I’d like to learn how to do a backflip.”

Suddenly, his eyes open real wide, sparkling now.

“OK!” Zion announces and starts walking to the other section of the gymnasium.

I’m still sort of frozen there in place not sure what to do, and he looks over his shoulder, still walking away, and yells “follow me!”

As I start to catch up to him, he looks over and he’s like, “I’ll teach you the backflip in 5 minutes.”

And so that’s how I learned how to do a backflip.

It was probably like 2-3 minutes before I landed my first one with Zion spotting me.

But by around 5 minutes or so, I was able to land 3 in a row all by myself, which was pretty kewl.

This was off this like long narrow trampoline thing onto a mat, though so not totally legit, in a sense. It’ll take a lot more practice before I can like do it on the floor.

Or, you know, at a bar or something because why else would you learn something if not for the party trick.

Or after I score a goal in soccer or something.

The backflip really expands your horizons when it comes to goal celebrations.

But yeah,  the backflip is all technique, I soon discover, so it’s gonna take some practice. Well, the initial part is just getting over your like fear and instincts. But after that, just pure technique. Getting a good height on the release. Tucking in nice and tight. And opening up at the right time so you get the right amount of rotation so you can stick your landing. Also, definitely don’t turn your head mid flip. Yeah, that was scary.

I would find out later that like, tumbling and flips and whatever are Zion’s specialty. Apparently he holds the local record for most backflips to front flips and back again in a row—43, I think the number was.

I ended up trying the front flip, too, but that one’s way harder. After 4-5 face plants in a row, it was the girls turn to use the long trampoline thing so Zion showed me some stuff on the rings and some parallel bar stuff. Then we worked on my handstand.

By the end, I am just soaked in sweat, which one of the trainer girls was eager to point out when she walked over to check on our progress. Gymnastics is hard!!!

Later, when I got home, I had a nice long Gchat with Janet, my friend who inspired my piece on Monday.

And we were talking about like the sort of uncertainty that comes with choosing your own path.

Like you do things because it feels right in the moment but you have no idea where it will lead. And that’s scary. And it creates doubt in your mind. Like why am I even doing this?

For Janet, that stuff included surfing and her art and a bunch of other stuff.

And I couldn’t help but think about the gymnastics class I just took.

If you had told me a year ago, I’d be taking a gymnastics class on my own volition with a bunch of not-even-in-middle-school-yet girls, I would’ve told you you were crazy.

And yet here we are.

But the journey started long ago.

It’s like I always knew I wanted to take working out seriously. And so you take that day by day, showing up at the gym, not really sure where it will lead. I just knew that I was going to get stronger and feel better about myself.

One year later, I am pretty strong, objectively speaking. I had reached pretty much all of my powerlifting goals, more or less. And suddenly, your horizons expand.

What could I do with this newfound strength?

A year ago, I never would have had the confidence to step into a random Adult Gymnastics class.

And frankly, I wouldn’t have had the required strength to do most of the stuff, especially on like, rings and parallel bars and whatnot.

One path leads to another.

And in that sense, gymnastics becomes another path that leads nowhere.

But you can bet I’m dang excited about whatever path it takes me to next.

Anyway, we’ll see after 7 weeks.

By then, hopefully I’ll be able to do a backflip for realsies.

Top photo: Mr. Todd’s gymnasium, lol. I had to take the photo super discrete like, cuz you know, didn’t wanna be a creep.