Saturday, May 7, 2016

Twenty-Five Years of Figure Skating

It was probably on this day 25 years ago a sad eleven-year old Anita took her first ice skating class.

I had just moved from Ohio to Alabama and I desperately missed my friends. Frequent moves were taking an emotional toll on me and my only refuge came in reading books. Books took me away to a different place. And it was only in these fictional out of body experiences that I felt safe and happy.

I still remember my first figure skating instructor's name was Julie. I don't remember what she taught me that day. But I do remember feeling free and happy. Gliding, stretching, moving my feet in ways that are impossible to do on the ground--it was, to say the least, opening the first page of a book that has lead to an incredible journey.

Figure skating has taught me to persevere in ways nothing else in life has. The triumphs, the failures, the injuries, they've all molded me into who I am today.

It's taught me the importance of setting goals, and no matter how long the haul, to never give up, and to never give less than all I have. If it weren't for my experiences as an ice skater, I don't think I'd have had the fortitude to endure and give what it takes to be a published author (hopefully one day soon!).

The friendships. Figure skating friendships are life-long friendships. I have crossed paths with so many different people, and just like a blade etching beautiful edges into the ice, each person I've gotten to know over the past twenty-five years has etched a special place in my heart.

Competing and performing are experiences that can never be replicated. I've gotten to travel all over the country for competitions and visited states I may have not been to otherwise. The butterflies in my stomach and the flutter of my heart before every performance have sometimes been so intense I wanted to cry and sometimes so calm it was subdued serenity. I've skated after accidentally leaving my blade guards on and sprawling on the ice like a baby deer on wobbly legs in front of an entire audience. I've performed while knowing a dear friend was probably taking his last breaths. I've skated at test sessions where the desire to pass was so much it was incapacitating. I've even performed on artificial ice during Christmas services at a local church. I've performed in freezing temperatures on outdoor rinks, in skimpy skating dresses, with a smile on my face for the morning news cameras even though the goose bumps on my arms felt like needles and I couldn't feel my toes. And I've skated as the half-time entertainment for professional hockey games. I've skated to music played by a live symphony and I've skated when technical issues made the sound system fail at Adult Nationals and the applause of the crowd became my music. I'd have to say though that some of my favorite performances have been skating in group numbers with my friends in home town shows.

Being a figure skater was also a gateway into two other careers that have enriched my life. I've gotten to share my passion and knowledge of figure skating with other children and adults through being an instructor at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena for the past eighteen years. And for a brief stint I operated Saxena Video Productions, LLC and traveled the south-eastern U.S. with my friends filming competitions and shows.

I've gotten to learn about the intricacies of what it's like to organize an ice show or for a club to host a large event like regionals or sectionals. This summer our rink is hosing Theater on Ice Nationals. It's a remarkable thing to see how a figure skating club and it's members can come together, volunteer their time, and host events like these.

But most importantly, I've come to realize, especially in the past few years after I tore my ACL, just how special every day is that I get to be on the ice. It doesn't matter how early it is in the morning, it's such a privilege to see my friends and colleagues and to jump, spin, and ice dance.

What a blessing and gift it has been to be a figure skater for the past twenty-five years and I pray and hope that I have (at least) another twenty five years more.

Photo courtesy of Angela Karen Photography