It’s been a little over five years since I’ve ended my figure skating career, and about two full years since I’ve stepped onto the ice. Today I had the opportunity to lace my boots up, and take my little sister to the rink for the very first time.
I began skating when I was about five years old after my mom had signed me up for lessons at our local rink. I don’t remember how it happened, but at some point I acquired a coach and was training six days a week for the next eleven years of my life. Through many ups and downs and emotional turmoil, my skating career ended at sixteen when I became injured and my family and I decided it was time that I hung my skates up.
However, I’ve yet to be completely over my skating career coming to an end. No matter how difficult and emotionally trying, or how guilty I’d often feel from the financial burden my parents went through to support me; I miss it. I miss the flying feeling and the certain way I’d place my arms and shoulders when covering the bend of the rink. I miss the cold and refusing to wear gloves, and the power and the grace that I could harness both at once and ever only on the ice. I even miss competing and the failed attempts at shutting off my nervousness. I miss the red-lipped war paint, and the combination of the specific smell of skating tights and hairspray will forever be ingrained into my memory.
When my little sister was born my coach had joked that there’ll be another skater in the family. The thought stayed with me through the hour as I watched my sister finding her weight on a pair of blades for the first time, and doing better than I would have anticipated. I can’t recall seeing anyone as fearless or as frustrated with not already knowing how to skate as fast as the other kids. As she refused my help, I stole some moments to feel the ice again. It’s hard to let go the love of your life, and as I’ve struggled to do so for the past five years, I don’t think I’m capable of it any longer. There’s just nothing that would serve as a good enough replacement.
As a competitor I had felt the pressure to excel and get an edge on my opponents. I was expected to be the best and there was always goals being placed on me that were far greater than I was capable of living up to. Not meeting these outlandish expectations has been viewed by me as failure and a sure sign that I’m simply not good enough. I had crumbled under the pressure and an injury was even more reason to call it quits. But medals and success and even the pride I’ve imagined feeling for representing my country at any sort of championship, are not good reasons to do anything at all. The power I feel, the grace, the beauty, and the sheer delight of gliding through the ice, that I swear can’t be likened to any other feeling of known existence, are much better reasons. Or when my mom can’t help but get emotional when she sees me skate and tells me that I look as I did five years ago.
It’s far too easy to become lost in the motions, the failures and the triumphs. It’s easy to make comparisons and to react to judgment as a truth, and sometimes, it’s so incredibly hard to remember why you started that you just want to quit. But if there’s anything to take away from my experiences — it’s that for anything we do it’s important to remember why we do it.