In two weeks from now...

I spend a lot of time on the United States Figure Skating Association's website, either poring over the rulebook’s testing guidelines or perusing it for the nerdy thrill of learning more about this thing I love. Its adult skating program’s landing page breaks us down into two groups—adults who became skaters and skaters who became adults—and the description has essentially grafted itself onto my brain. I love the thought and I really love parallel structure any time I run across it in the wild, but what I love the most is the reminder that we all took so many different routes to the same destination and bring a kaleidoscope of experiences with us.

I do not naturally open up to, approach, seek out, or idly chat with most people. I will almost always choose my solitude over others' company because I feel most at ease when I'm alone. Even the folks I consider my kindred spirits and favorite human beans demand more energy than I have to give most days, and the time it takes for me to respond to most texts flies in the face of every glued-to-their-phone Millennial stereotype ever unironically bandied about. The ice may be my happy place but my happiest place is my home, where I can enjoy the company of my husband and my dog—the only two creatures whose constant company calms me more often than not.

But the more I get to know other adult skaters, the more comfortable I am with swapping stories and indulging in their company. Because the more I connect with them, the more I realize that I actually am part of a thriving, supportive community of like-minded and similarly driven people. I'm still getting used to feeling more like an insider and less like an awkward wallflower, but it's a mental shift I am more than happy to be facing.

Feeling "at home" is a strange concept to me. I didn't truly encounter the feeling until I went to college and found My People there, a staggering number of whom actually seem to be happy with the fact that they're basically stuck with me for the rest of forever. I found a whole new kind of home again when my best friend's mother hosted the first of many Pre-Thanksgivings in the early aughts, which began as a tradition among our college friends and has since become an annual gathering of our always-growing family-of-the-heart. I now have all kinds of homes away from the one my husband and I have made, and it's a palpable reminder of how lucky I am to be surrounded by the best folks humanity has to offer.

In the past year, that same sense of belonging has grown with every hour I've spent at "my" rinks. It was strange to realize that "home" could be applied to a place that is so removed from my friends' warmth and, instead, holds significant meaning to me in a way I have deeply personalized and, in turn, has embraced me as one of its own. So here I am, introverted and awkward and in my 30s, finding out that I can still make new friends and find my place in a community I didn't expect to welcome me so unquestionably.

It still rocks me back to realize that skating has claimed such sizable real estate in my heart. Getting up at 5:30 for even just one glorious hour of morning freestyle requires absolutely none of the begrudging slaps of the snooze button that getting up for work nearly two hours later does (it's certainly not easy but it IS worth it). For someone who is positively freezing in 70-degree rooms, carrying the rink's chill with me well beyond its doors serves as a physical reminder that some part of my day brought me to a place that gives me a wholly unique sense of peace and accomplishment. All of the bruises and screaming muscles and nicks in my skin where another attempted loop jump ended with a blade to the shin are badges of honor I wear proudly instead of hiding them as the vanity-brutalizing sources of insecurity they once would have been. Even the days when I fight the adult-skater intimidation with every ounce of fight in me melt into the flow of practicing hard and skating harder as soon as I give my anxieties over to the ice that I have come to love as another home.

I've been thinking about this a lot because my testing plans suddenly changed in a big and kind of scary way, and it's recast the past 15 months in a whole new light: What was once lots of individual moments and struggles and highlights is now one cohesive "before" era, or a prelude. A few days ago, my primary coach emailed me asking if I wanted to scrub my plans for taking the Pre-Bronze MITF test at some point in the nebulous spring and, instead, take its standard-track equivalent at the end of the month. This means I have one less element to agonize over but will be scrutinized a little less forgivingly than I would be if I stuck with the more lenient adult track testing. I had all but made up my mind on the spot and so, in two weeks, I'll have either passed or failed my Pre-Preliminary Moves in the Field test.

So the past few days have been a whirlwind of all-new milestones—most notably signing up for my first-ever skating test and buying my first pieces of non-practice skating attire since high school—and spending hours perfecting my waltz eights (to much success!) and agonizing over my left spirals (to... slightly less success). My coach has been emailing me all kinds of testing tips and off-ice training ideas, one of my favorite fellow adult skaters has been making me feel like I can take on the world and win, my amazing support network has been amazingly supportive, aaaaaand my brain is right on time with the anxiety dreams. I am excited and nervous and impatient and pukey and just in utter disbelief that a goal I have been obsessively working toward has a concrete, actual date. And it's looming closer every day.

On top of that, my coach is also preparing my class for the ISI Bronze Freestyle Test but that, weirdly, is something I'm just taking in stride. And I'm debating trying out for a local synchro team, because why not keep expanding my adult-skater community and loving this sport in all new ways?

Lenin once said “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen,” and I am so feeling that latter half right now. The skating timeline I've been working on just got kicked into fast-forward and hard, and I'm just in stunned awe of how quickly an avalanche of goals dropped themselves into my lap. I said I wanted to pass my first skating test before Lake Placid, and here I could very well be passing two by the time I head off for that long weekend. You know, assuming I get all five seconds of my left spiral under control so I don't spontaneously wig out before then.

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