*Disclaimer: this post may contain certain words or phrases that are part of figure skating vernacular and non-skating folk may not understand what they mean exactly. Never to fear. They don’t contribute to the point of this post. So read on, fearless friends.
For more than half of my life, I’ve woken up at or before 7 each day. No, I’m not attributing this to the painful torture of public school, with unbearable starting times and zombie-like students trudging in. Most mornings I woke up, got dressed, and went to the figure skating rink. There was never any question of sleeping in or skipping a day; it was something I had to do and I knew it. You had to be fully awake and ready to perform at whatever time your coach wanted you there. I never questioned it. I could have decided at any point that I didn’t want to wake up at that time anymore. But I didn’t do that (until my junior year of high school).
I don’t remember a childhood..I only remember skating. That’s all I did and that’s all I wanted to do. I knew my goal, akin to every other 3rd grade figure skater’s dream– to skate at the Olympics one day. At that age, with only being able to do a single axel, I calculated which year I would be old enough to skate at the Olympics..I would have to be 16, but since my 18th birthday didn’t fall on an even year, I would have to be 19, and the 2014 Olympics in Sochi would be the one for me.
I dedicated myself to skating at an early age. My family never went on vacation, because you can’t just take a two week break from skating and expect to not lose any of it (it being physical strength, skating skills, edge quality..etc). I had to take a week off because of an ankle injury in 4th grade. That was the first time I hadn’t skated in longer than a week for 3 years. Then, my family moved to a different town in 5th grade for me to skate, specifically for me to train with a different coach. Because I knew my goal. I knew what I wanted, I wanted to be the best figure skater out there, and my family wasn’t going to deprive me of the chance to reach my goal. (I really have such kind and considerate parents, don’t I?)
Long story short, I reached my peak in 8th grade, earning a place to skate at Junior Nationals. After that competition, I was renewed with drive and motivation, ready to make it to the “big kid” Nationals next. My future hinged on my ability to do triple jumps, a feat I had yet to accomplish. It ended up being a feat I never accomplished. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough, maybe I didn’t have the right coaches, or maybe I ate the wrong foods…whatever it was, I didn’t reach my goal. Before my junior year of high school started I realized that I didn’t have enough time to make it to my goal. I was 16 years old, and I still didn’t have a consistent double axel or any triples. I didn’t know what else I could do- I had nothing except skating. I didn’t know there was a part of me that didn’t revolve around skating. But I was so sick of trying to reach my goal that when I realized it wouldn’t happen, I would no longer force myself to be unhappy. So I quit.
It felt glorious to quit. I no longer had to wake up early to go to the rink or run straight to the rink after school; I could join clubs, I could do things with friends, I could be a normal teenager, a concept that had alluded me for most of my life. No longer did I have to skate every day. I didn’t kill myself cross training, I didn’t have to endure double run throughs of long programs, I didn’t spin till I puked. I do think quitting was one of the best decisions of my life. It gave me a new perspective on a life that I would have never known stuck inside a skating rink. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it.
The 2014 Sochi Olympics start in February. Figure Skating Nationals is happening this week, right this moment. A senior level skater must place in the top at Nationals to be considered to skate in the Olympics. Since I was 7, I always dreamed I would be skating at Nationals to make it to the Olympics, but, alas, I’m not.
So here I am, sitting in my room alone on my computer, watching the US Figure Skating Championships Senior Ladies Short Program, and eating chocolate chip cookies, trying to fill this bittersweet void. I had always convinced myself that I would be there skating at this exact point in time when I was younger. I know there’s a reason that I’m not there, that I decided to quit when I did, but I can’t help but want to be on that ice. My passion for skating runs deeper than I imagined, and I fully admit that I quit because I thought I lost that passion. But, I know that whenever I watch figure skating, now or in the future, there is not an ounce of me that doesn’t wish it could be out there like I used to be. And that never goes away.
**Second Disclaimer: This post may sound very depressing. To reassure you all, I’m very happy with my life. I have learned so much more than I ever would have learned if I had continued skating. I’m only reflecting on this part of me that misses it right now because 1) the Olympics are coming up, 2) I thought this would be a pivotal moment in my life but it’s not…the pivotal moments are those that we pass without realizing how necessary they are to us… and 3) I figured reflecting on my past would allow me to see something clearer. That, I’m not sure of yet. But maybe once I find it, I will tell y’all.
P.S. Don’t forget to tune into NBC on Saturday from 3-6 pm EST to catch some of these history-making skaters in the act!