Taking the scenic route to the point

I’m a writer by nature, inclination toward self-destruction, and trade. It’s the only bankable talent and interest I really have; excluding editing, its far less anxiety-inducing cousin, it’s really the only thing I can see myself spending the rest of my life doing.

But, oh, how I am lazy.

Maybe “lazy” isn’t the right word. Unmotivated? Easily distracted? Perpetually tired? Leaning on vices until they're practically a lifestyle? Stubbornly uninspired?

Whatever the case, every time I’ve ever tried to write a novel, despite getting a little farther than the last time (my most recent attempt almost filled an entire notebook!), I run out of oomph sooner or later. It's a big reason why I gravitated toward journalism in both college and the early days of my career: The story was already there (world-building has ALWAYS been my problem), it just needs to be told by someone who knows how to turn a story into a deliberately constructed narrative. Fact isn’t by any means easier than fiction but it sure lends itself to a speedier resolution, and I am all about that expedited end.

Part of what I love about writing is that working at it came easily: It didn’t take a lot of effort to tease an organic interest into a cultivated asset. Which is helpful, since I have a deep aversion to inauthenticity and tend to lose interest pretty quickly if something doesn’t feel right or my motivation feels insincere. And writing's something I learned early on that I can put off until even a little past the last possible minute and produce something I’m not unhappy with (I tell myself that it means I’m good under pressure). Writing had a lot going for it that basically nothing else ever did, and at the expense of practically no real effort. Some talents come naturally to other people; mine come because I found them on the path of least resistance.

It’s a big reason why I’m so surprised that I stuck with skating. Sure, a reintroduction that began with dropping myself in a mixed-level adult group lesson offered more of the high-payoff/low-expenditure that I demand to consider a thing worth doing. But that didn’t last long enough for the habit to really cement itself as a positive one that zeroed right in on mashing all the right buttons, and I voluntarily availed myself of that appeal pretty quickly. And, admittedly, it took a few months to get back to feeling like I was working toward something worth pursuing.

The ice doesn’t deal in easy wins. A great lesson makes the future seem within reach and without limits; for every one of those moments, though, are countless more that make you wonder why you ever entertained what is so obviously a ridiculous dream that you have no business chasing. You have to want it to make those days and weeks and mooooonths of incremental progress in just one foundational element worth the sweat and frustration.

There are no shortcuts or clever games to play in a meticulously executed, painstakingly hard-won physical pursuit—I’m just not used to being challenged in a way that I can’t circumvent. 

And there’s not just one thing to master at a time, either: Every. single. thing. is the result of its own unique sweet spot where, like, every imaginable combination of positioning one’s center of gravity, balance, legs, arms, head, knees, core, and back all work together for a very specific end. I’m the kind of person who falls up stairs, and now also openly inviting new aches and potential long-term damage into my life. And I spend much of my time off the ice counting down until I get to go back to the privilege of doing so. I think you have to love doing it to make it stick, because nothing makes each little part of something so remarkable and so distinct like wanting to not only learn and but also appreciate absolutely everything about it. 

Because the ice DOES reward passion almost as much as it does practice. And it does so in a casually gameified way: The small victories come often at first, which means you get an early taste of how good it is it show this sport that you’re not that easily discouraged. Because it will make you reconsider again and again, until THAT becomes as common as those early, addictive wins. And you’ll remember that with progress comes higher hurdles, risks, and expectations—but also one intense celebratory rush that eclipses it them all. 

And there is nothing quite like realizing that you can still love something as an adult with the inexhaustible enthusiasm of a teenager, but this time you actually know how to nurture it.


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