“I’m 42 years old,” I told a friend, “and I’ve found one of the biggest joys I’ve ever experienced just now!” She nodded, “That’s wonderful!”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamt of ice skating. I’d imagine myself gracefully gliding across the ice as I drove in my car to pick up kids from school. I pictured myself doing fancy, energetic loops on the smooth surface to pumping music and audience applause, while I labored on presentations for work. In the back of my mind, for a long time, there it was – ice skating, always ice skating.
I grew up in the former Soviet Union, where ice skating was a typical winter activity, so I knew how to do some basic skating. However, I never pursued this hobby seriously, and after we moved to the United States (around 5th grade), I gave it up entirely in favor of other sports. Yet it was always there, on ESPN occasionally, during the Olympics, at my local rink once in a while.
I’m not sure what exactly inspired me to jump into ice skating in the past year. Perhaps the effects of the pandemic – wanting to grab life and experience all it had to offer. I have thought about taking lessons before, while my kids were learning how to skate when they were young, but I never really took it seriously. Until 3 months ago, when I found a coach and committed to weekly lessons. No turning back now.
I have always known that it is much easier to learn something as a child, and much more challenging to learn as an adult. Certainly, it couldn’t be truer about learning to figure skate as a grown woman. At every lesson, I feel awkward and uncoordinated, as I try to navigate the simple elements my coach is demonstrating for me. Again, and again, and again. Her patience and optimism deserve much admiration, because I’m definitely not her quickest student. Yet nonetheless, I try and try and try. I practice the same simple move repeatedly, day after day, feeling elated when I get it and frustrated when I don’t. Quite often – I don’t.
While I train, I glance around the ice, observing all the skaters who are there to do what I do. Some are young girls, ages from 3 to 18, graceful and beautiful, gliding effortlessly, as if they were born doing this. Others are older, closer to my age, men and women alike, perfecting their art and absorbed in their own routines to their own music in their headphones. I wonder sometimes what led them all here, to this ice, at this point in their lives. How did they discover ice skating? What do they feel when they step on the ice every day for the first time?
What I feel is absolute joy. It’s hard to describe this sensation with any other words, and it’s difficult to believe that joy can be so simple. But as I step out on the ice, placing my used skate blades carefully at first, then more confidently, the bliss is palpable. It’s been decades since I’ve experienced such a profound sense of happiness from an activity. I’ve dabbled and continue to partake in various sports, including running and tennis. In the past, I’ve tried yoga, swimming, Pilates, and other pastimes middle-aged suburban women often flock to. All of them were nice. None of them brought me the kind of euphoria I experience when I skate, awkwardly, clumsily, yet with passion.
Feeling this pleasure has brought unexpected benefits to my family as well. My daughters, seeing how thrilled I am about skating, have also expressed the desire to get into it. Furthermore, it’s valuable for children to see their parents fully experiencing life, enjoying activities that bring happiness, and doing something for themselves that has nothing to do with parenting at all. Several times per week, my daughters and husband get to see me grab my skates and drive away to our local rink to do this thing that’s just about me. There’s hardly a better gift I can give myself and a better lesson I can offer my children than the lesson that you have to find something that makes you come alive and then go after it as if nothing else matters. Because nothing else does.