Bundled up in my lavender snow suit, hat and gloves, I bravely stepped out onto the ice at the age of three. I took a few tentative steps in my brand new ice skates. And then I fell. My dad often recounts this moment as his proudest of me. Not that I fell, but that I got up and kept going.
My childhood experience ignited within me a love of all-things-ice skating: the fresh smell of the ice, the entrancing zamboni, and, most of all, the feeling of flying freely as I glided around the rink. Growing up, I took many lessons – gymnastics, ballet, taekwondo, to name a few – but ice skating was my true love. The lessons I began in Anchorage, Alaska continued in New Orleans until in third grade, when the only ice skating rink in the city was torn down.
Over the years, my affection for ice skating has never diminished. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my skills. I can count on one hand the number of times I have ventured out onto the rink in the last 20 years. But a friend recently kindled the thought that I might pursue this passion again, so I went out yesterday and bought a pair of skates. (Because rental skates are never a good idea.)
Bundled up in my purple coat, hat and gloves, I bravely stepped out onto the ice at the age of thirty-five. I took a few tentative steps in my brand new ice skates. And then I fell. And my dad should still be proud – I got up, and kept going.
It’s extremely hard when something that was once so easy becomes so difficult. The first time I circled the rink last night, I clutched the rail to keep my balance. Slowly, I eased away from the railing, as my “muscle memory” began to return. So far, so good, I thought … just before I fell for the first time.
Before the night was over, I would fall three more times. Almost every time, it would happen just as I was easing into “feeling” of skating. I would feel my tense posture and deep concentration relax into being on the ice – and then, bam, I was down. You see, muscle memory is stored in our brains – not in our muscles. While I may remember the posture and the movements, I lack the balance and the strength.
But there is something about the ice that makes me determined. There is a love that I am not ready to give up on. As I struggled around the ice, I made a goal for the evening: skate just enough that the next time I step on the ice, it feels just slightly easier – but not so much I break a bone.
This time, I won’t wait a decade before stepping onto the ice again. I am sure my steps will still be tentative for quite a while. But when I fall, I will get up and keep going. It is the only way to learn.