Progress, not perfection

Something about a weekend full of crossing state lines to find weekend skating is apparently good for me because the four hours I got in this past weekend (which is a lot for what I'm used to) reminded me why I keep grinding away at this sport that I lovehateOMFG!loooove.

My toe loops felt natural, or as natural as an inherently awkward jump can feel. I had the most consistent salchows ever, and also landed my biggest, springy-est one ever (my coach commented on how that’s the kind of salchow I’ll need for a double, and nothing gets me giddy like coaches who see doubles in my future… even when I don’t even have all my singles yet). I'm feeling good about my five-step mohawk, three-turns-while-moving, and my Bronze MITF test in general (definitely feeling like I can pass it by the end of the year, if not sometime this fall). I'm feeling the best I’ve EVER felt about my forward left power pulls, and the RFs are catching up, too. I am having so much fun working on spins in general—except for the thoroughly evil backspins, which will probably require a Faustian pact to ever come to fruition. I think I'll have a solid Pre-Bronze Free Skate (herein PB FS) program by the end of the summer. And, most importantly? I FINALLY LANDED A LOOP JUMP ON SUNDAY. And it’s all because my coach has the patience of a saint and one of my favorite adult skaters is so incredibly generous with her time and advice.

I've resigned myself to being aggressively patient and focus more on trusting my whole body to work together, and so much is paying off at once already. There is nothing like consistently satisfying skating sessions to feel all revved up about this sport all over again. My primary coach and I worked on PB FS test prep on Saturday, and it is so much frustrating fun working on my first-ever program (and, yes, my proclivity for retail-therapy excuses meant that I celebrated with buying myself a skating dress for Adult Sectionals, because I’ll scrounge up some faith in myself if it presents an opportunity to buy pretty things). I’ve been hacking away at Bronze MITF test elements, and I am a little pissed that mohawks are my biggest sticking point still—though my five-step mohawks ARE improving! I made my way all down the ice and connected each lobe for the first time Sunday, even if my LFI mohawks are still total garbage.

Since I learned my lesson after my first test and refuse to let my hard-won efforts languish into oblivion again for focusing too much on a test and not enough on other skills, Sunday was a lot of working on jumps and spins. I cannot buh-leeeeeve how the threat of dizzily injuring myself is the only thing that makes me stop practicing one-foot, scratch, and sit spins for a spell. I used to abhor spins with every ounce of my soul, and here I am loving every second of grinding away at a still-novel skill. I’ve heard so many other skaters say how the moves they hated learning the most become some of their favorites once they figured them out, and it’s a unique kind of motivating to finally be at a place where I can understand that perspective shift. They way agony dissolves into accomplishment first and then unbridled excitement before settling into actual, real-life pride and accomplishment is one of the most wonderfully addictive things about figure skating, and it definitely makes even the most discouraging bumps in the journey worth every moment of self-doubt.

I’m daydreaming about skating again, and missing it as soon as I put my blade guards on. It feels like time melts away whenever I’m on the ice, and like I’ve been leaving my heart there, too. It is so wonderful to put another skating slump behind me and just recklessly love this sport again. I think it definitely helps to finally see some progress, make some fixes, and even squeeze another test in there (I passed my ISI Open Bronze test the Saturday after Lake Placid, which was a nice jolt of bonus encouragement before starting the summer trend of flitting between ice rinks and a pool [and, man, I never knew how good pools were for practicing skating moves and jumps]!). It’s just a shame that it came now, considering that summer is such a wicked beast when it comes to rink time—but, hey, that’s what spinners and practicing jumps in your living room are for, right?

Of all the things Lake Placid taught me, I think actually getting some kind of context for what it means to be an adult skater was its most significant lesson. There will always be better, younger, more dedicated, more disciplined skaters out there, and it's counterproductive to be so hard on myself when I don't have the hours (and energy) each day to devote to the ice like some folks do. If nothing else, I should take pride in the progress I've made with inconsistent training, a gutter palate's eating habits, a probably nihilistic proclivity for cloves and cocktails, and a knack for falling upstairs. In less than a year and a half, I got myself farther in skating in my 30s than I ever was by the time I left it at 16. Like... I did this. All by myself. A lot of people have helped along the way, but I'm chasing this passion because I want to. Because the ice always feels like coming home.

What’s more, it’s utterly unreal and so surprisingly motivating to see how embracing patience, focusing on my posture, balance, and bodily alignment, and finally letting myself enjoy incremental improvement are all paying off in major, sudden ways. One of the other key takeaways I got from Lake Placid is how posture and carriage are so important to the quality of one’s skating, and I’m finally ready to start listening. Just like I’m finally taking my home coaches’ advice to heart and letting myself be okay with baby steps.

Because if I’m destined to learn anything this summer, it’s that the journey is full of its own rewards. Which is why I should be chasing progress right now, not perfection.

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