On nights when Daughter wants to stay after cheer practice for open gym I get a front row seat to a carnival. Fully grown humans (most of them men) show up here after 9 pm on a Tuesday to jump and flip and spin and bounce their bodies off the springy blue gym floor. They’re all young, like early-to-mid 20’s, but their youth, to look at them, is the only thing they have in common–this is as racially diverse a gathering as you will find anywhere in the city at this hour.

What do these people do during the daytime? Do they have jobs? And what are they practicing for? They take turns performing individual moves, and they offer one another high fives and tips, but they’re not rehearsing anything together. They’re all on their own in here, and this is perhaps the only place in the city they can do this.

It’s stunning to watch. A younger version of me would feel inferior, like these taut, twisting frames were condemning mine as I sat slouching in the corner. But not anymore–at least not today. My life has progressed out of the phases in which you pursue solitary hobbies past 9:00 on a weeknight. Theirs will too, and some of them will be glad for the transition. But for now they have this seemingly unbounded freedom and flexibility, and I’m glad for that. I’m happy for them.

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