Introverts and existential crises on ice

I’m still in awe over how simply committing to the adult skating weekend has gotten me all refocused and fired up about skating again. One of the upshots of being a chronic procrastinator is how a definitive goal can throw me into high-gear when I’m honest with myself about the work I need to do, especially when I’m earnestly invested in the looming event. It’s really wonderful to feel wholly consumed with skating again after even an objectively brief slump. And just thinking about everything this plunge entails—the northward drive, the immersive potential of all that ice time, spending a few days in a town I haven’t visited in more than a decade—is enough to make the butterflies flutter all over again.

I have spent the past few days in a flurry of unusually motivated planning and list-making and… like, who am I even right now? I am a perpetually disorganized, last-minute maelstrom of needlessly challenging myself to get things done as close to deadline as humanly possible. And now I’m making minutely detailed packing lists, itemizing all the skills I want to perfect by the time I hit the road, reading everything I can about previous years’ programs so I can painstakingly rank all the classes I’m hoping are offered this year, scouring lodging options, and deciding how many freestyle sessions I can realistically drag my morning-cranky self to so I can be as prepared as I’m planning to be.

However. My plans for early-morning freestyle sessions have run aground with a lesson in the perils of delayed action that I don’t want to need but clearly do. The rink closest to my office has been offering freestyle sessions before work for literal months (and shame on me for not taking advantage of them, I know), which I assumed would still be an option when I sat down to make my color-coded, intricately bullet-pointed “Things to Do Before LPASW” list. And now my world is in chaos because said rink’s calendar is nothing but mid-afternoon freestyle sessions that the inconvenience of a full-time job means I can’t attend.

Of course, their freestyle times were sporadic at best to begin with. But I was willing to go with whatever inconsistent schedule I had to follow because the anonymous appeal of a whole new rink was a huge, marquee-lit checkpoint in its “pro” column. And now it’s not an option and I spent entirely too much of my day googling and even calling every rink within an hour from either home or work to see if any offer freestyle sessions before or after my working hours.

None of them do. Buuuuut my Wednesday rink has freestyle sessions every freaking morning that I don’t take advantage of because I feel terminally awkward there without a coach. And now I’m pitting my desire to meet my newly shifted goals in a thing I truly love doing against a lifetime of introversion and, man, things are not looking good.

And it’s just like… Mad, jeebus, won’t you grow up already? This should not be such a difficult decision. It shouldn't even be a decision at all! And yet, here I am. Because I am an expert in complicating things for the sake of abiding by my aversion to people. Which, you know, has historically not yielded any proof that I should be clinging to this way of thinking as fervently as I do. But I’m sitting here throwing up excuses like “But it’s still so crowded even at early-o’-clock!” and “But it’s spring break so all the sessions are gonna be swarmed with younger, better skaters!” and “But I’m just in everyone’s way during my lesson and it’ll be worse when I’m practicing!” instead of looking at the reality of it. I’ll be 34 next month and my knee-jerk reaction should not be to rationalize petty roadblocks at this stage in the adulting game.

I mean, obviously I’m gonna suck it up and go. And now, because I’m forcing myself to actually be an adult about this, I have the option of skating every bloody morning from 6 a.m. to 8: 30 a.m. (because, you know, I do have to go to work at some point) if I really want to dedicate myself to this as much as I keep saying I do. Talking the talk means nothing without also walking the walk, and I’m never going to get to where I want to be if I keep making excuses to hang back and stunt my own growth as an ice skater. And the root of all this is my insecurity about my own abilities. Surely going to the rink more often will only put those concerns deeper into the past, and faster. But try telling that to the many, many irrational parts of my brain.

It’s not like my adult-skater journey hasn’t already been rife with hurdles that test my introvert nature. Every time I hit the ice is a win against my lesser demons that want me to run screaming back to my comfort zone and far from the potential disasters that lie ahead, none of which ever come to fruition. I’m not a confrontational person but I am well-prepared to fight imaginary battles, which is why I am constantly bracing for things like the Dance Mom’s icier cousin to come at me like a raging lunatic for daring to breathe on the same ice as her precious child and totally ruining their Olympics-bound darling’s concentration from my timid isolation in the Lutz Corner. It really messes with my on-ice zen to be so bogged down with those kind of worries, which you’d think would be reason enough to abandon them. But, again: That’s logic, and my self-sabotaging brain refuses to play by those rules.

I hate that, even after 14 months, the intimidation of being an adult participating in an already-demoralizing sport can still get the best of me. I’m looking at the possibility of seriously ramping up my practice game and getting more ice time in a week than I’ve been getting for months and all I can think about is how it will either inconvenience other people or have me interacting with them. What kind of madness is that, honestly? (The kind that’s a consequence of redirecting all the money you SHOULD be putting toward actual therapy into skating instead, obviously.)

Being an adult skater is hard—hell, being an ice skater in general is hard! But the risks don’t even compare to the rewards, and I do believe that the more often I remind myself of it (because I DO have ample proof on my side, but that won’t stop my inexplicable dedication to doubting both myself and the things I love from showing up just when I’m starting to feel good). Sometimes all I can do is just suck it up and let all the unnecessary inner turmoil melt away as I lose myself in the sport I love so much. I’ll only get better the more I do this, and there’s no reason to limit my ice time to the times I feel “safe.” I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it until I finally stop railing against its truth: No one ever accomplished their best from the safety of their comfort zone. I got my second chance and I’m not gonna let it go to waste just because I am wickedly adept at undermining my own happiness. I’ll never know how far I can go if I don’t let go of what I’m allowing to hold me back.

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