A reconnection half a lifetime in the making

Once upon a time, I had a blog dedicated to two of my favorite things: eating and reading.

I was a side-gig book reviewer at the time with a full-time job that afforded me enough opportunities to read on company time that I was no stranger to starting and finishing a book in the same day. I also hated that particular job, so the full-tilt bookworm escapism was as necessary as it was appreciated.

And then, like most things I throw myself at with my entire, reckless being, I burned through that honeymoon sheen of novelty: Being a book reviewer and getting paid to both read and write about books is fantastic, until you start trudging through novels you don’t enjoy and writing about them on deadlines that you can’t keep up with. I also changed jobs, this time taking on a much more demanding position that eviscerated my free time—and with it, my desire to read and write. It was the effective end of that particular side hustle and its corollary blog.

Flash forward to January 2017. Wait, no—actually, back up to 2001 first. After half-heartedly taking group ice skating lessons for a few years, I was less-than-enthusiastically enrolled in private lessons at the time. You know those hopelessly uncoordinated, visibly unengaged kids who are only pursuing some kind of athletic pursuit because their parents mandated it? Yeah, that was me. Granted, participating in a solo sport rather than a team one made it infinitely preferable to the softball league I previously spent three of those five years begging to leave, but athletics are typically not where an introverted bookworm belongs. So when I sprained my ankle on a botched landing in early 2001 and never finished the physical therapy that was supposed to get me back on the ice, that end was met not with grief but rather with a relief rivaling how I now greet cancelled plans as an eternally emotionally exhausted thirtysomething.

Still, my battered, secondhand skates followed me from my high school bedroom to my college dorm rooms, and somehow stayed with me all the way to the house that my husband and I have called home for nearly six years. As the years buffed away the rougher edges of my skating memories, I toyed with the possibility of getting back on the ice. Some part of me knew that I wasn't quite finished with a sport that just couldn't grab me by the heart the first time around.

But an even bigger part of me is a truly unparalleled procrastinator.

So. January 2017. After 16 years off the ice, thanks to the gentle coaxing of a coworker who advised me to get a hobby and a beloved friend's recent interest in taking up ice skating, I laced up those now-almost-two-decades-old skates to ride again at 32
. And again. And again. That casual plan to get back on the ice was my longest-running new year's resolution by mid-February, and I quickly threw myself at freestyle sessions, private lessons, more group lessons, and even a little off-ice training. 

And then, here we are: 13 months and a brand-new pair of skates later, and I am downright smitten with ice skating for the first time ever.

I want to say that I cannot believe Younger Me couldn't be arsed to fall in love with flying, but I was a moody youth who didn't enjoy much of anything. So it's a good thing that Current Me has the comparative maturity to know how rare second chances are. Especially when there is an expiration date on such a physically demanding pursuit. Now, I am making up for lost time with a dedication I didn't know I could muster up.

This blog will, ultimately, be a love letter to skating from a late bloomer. All too often, things feel wrong not because they inherently are but because the timing is. And I think that's an important distinction to make because sometimes the problem is you. Growing up, my time never felt like my own; unfortunately, skating was an extension of that. I resented it like I did so many other things from my early days but coming back to it on my own terms gave me the perspective and open-mindedness and patience to let me appreciate it in all of its maddening, wonderful glory.

Here’s the thing: I can’t imagine it’s terribly interesting to read about the ins and outs of this private lesson, that group lesson, this move I’m working on, that jump I finally landed (I mean, not that I won’t try to make my significant milestones more interesting to all the people who aren’t me but I don’t want my intimately personal progress to be the focus here). I’m an emotional creature, and I think a lot of what I’ve been feeling as I not only rediscover ice skating but also whole-heartedly fall in love with it is not an unrelatable experience.

It is intimidating coming back as an adult to something I left as a teenager. It is terrifying to know that my body can (and most likely will) betray me at some point. It is frustrating trying to figure out when to push my boundaries but not my body. It is effing torture to drag my unwilling brain through a conference call when my heart’s still out on the ice. It is seemingly counterintuitive to sacrifice one of my greatest pleasures as an adult—delicious, restorative sleep in my cocoon of a flannel-sheeted bed that is comfortingly more dog hair than bedding—to make it to a 7:45 a.m. lesson in a thing that has confoundingly, irrevocably become my escapism and my happy place.

There are days of brutalizing deflation. But there are moments of accomplishment that almost reduce me to a weepy mess of aching thighs and a soaring heart. And there are countless hours of repetition, stumbles, progress, doubt, and incremental victories that comprise the foundation of something that is the closest to unassisted flying that I will ever know.

There is tremendous bodily risk, but it is brilliantly eclipsed by discovering the unwavering support of the adult skating community, my coaches’ tireless encouragements (and their necessary nitpicks, too), and my hard-won personal bests. And it is knowing that one day this utterly frivolous adventure will come to an end, so I’d better be present for every moment I get to spend rediscovering the best second chance I’ve ever been given. And be infinitely grateful for each on-ice hour my body lets me have.

I hope I can do it all justice so you can enjoy the journey, too. <3


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