Although this one is a little different, it’s one of several stories in my memoir in the making. If you’d like to read the full collection, click here.
The first time I went ice skating I had only one thought in my mind: don’t fall.
I repeated this thought in my head like a mantra, thinking that doing so would somehow prevent the inevitable. I was bound to fall–it had been my signature move for as long as I can remember. Little me would be doing something I had no business doing, then there’d be a thud followed immediately by an “I’m okay!”
I tried so desperately to avoid falling, not only to avoid pain but also because I’d created graphic scenarios in my head of what would happen if I did fall. I’d already injured my left wrist twice, once while skating, and my mind concocted a scenario where I did so again, this time because someone ran into and sent me hurtling toward the ground, causing my bones to fracture into a million pieces.
I thought of scenarios like these (including a pretty gruesome one involving someone’s skate blades and my face) as I approached the skate rental counter. My nervousness and fear combined to create a roiling mass of liquids in my stomach. Uh oh, I’m going to throw up. I quickly muttered my shoe size to the man behind the counter then ran to a bench as soon as he handed me my skates so that I could sit and calm myself down. I did, but it only lasted a moment. As soon as the skates were on, the fear set in again. “Who let me do this,” I asked my four companions in a panic. “Who thought this was a good idea?” If I was already losing balance on carpeted ground, I would definitely fall and break something within three seconds of being on the ice. But Ally, the only skilled skater in the group, chuckled at my concern and said, “you’ll be fine, trust me. It’ll be fun.”
It was not fun.
At least not the first fifteen minutes anyway. I clung to the wall for dear life and slowly dragged myself along the rink, stopping at certain intervals to allow my friend Ashley to catch up. I watched with awe as people around me skated with ease; even children who looked no more than six danced around the rink with skill and grace. Ally was one of those graceful skaters, circling the rink and coming back to us before we even made it three feet ahead. She offered to help me but I refused. I could only imagine the chaos that would ensue once I stepped away from the wall. Instead, I stayed with my friend Cris, who was more my speed.
After the first hour, I finally felt confident enough to let go of the wall, if only for a few seconds at a time. Around me teens and adults were doing twists and tricks, shredding ice as they glided. Most of the children skated expertly as well, but there were still some who fell to the ground in dramatic fashion. There was something intriguing to me about the kids who had fallen. There were no tears, no cries of pain: they simply got back up and went again. I thought to myself that I wished it were so simple–to be able to just fall and get up again with no complaints, to go out onto the ice without regard for safety and just try and try until you succeed. But I am not a young child. I don’t just run into a situation without assessing the possible consequences. I can’t just throw myself into the middle of the ice without care. I’m older. I do not see the ice as a playground; I see it as an arena of possible catastrophes. When I look at it, I am reminded of the “skate at your own risk” signs I saw upon arrival. I’ve assessed the risks–I know the fall will cause pain, and since I’ve felt pain before, I avoid it at every cost.
I did not fall that first time ice skating, but looking back on it, I wish I had. Because the hardest part is not the fall, it’s getting back up when you’re on the ground. And once you’ve learned to get back up, the rest is easy.