At the age of 23, after years of living in Canada, I have finally decided to learn how to skate.
Stuck in our hometowns with online school for the first half of the semester, my close friend from high school, Jessica, and I would spend our weekends at the community rink. With lessons at the local skating club temporarily suspended due to COVID, Jessica and I resolved to teach ourselves with a combination of YouTube videos and good, old-fashioned trial-and-error.
The first lesson in every YouTube video we found was how to fall: properly.
One person commented that when they first learned to skate, they would fall – on purpose – at the beginning of every session on the ice. Getting it out of the way would lessen their nerves for the rest of the hour. As someone who often lets her fear of failure deter her from starting new things, it was comforting to have failure normalized as an expectation. Though I’ll never be an Olympian or even the girls who committed to the gruelling training of figure skating at the age of 7 as they breeze around the rink, carving calligraphy into the ice with each graceful and powerful slice of their skates, I can have a lot of fun. I often think of an Internet post I read about how amateur shouldn’t be a dirty word: it comes from the Latin amare, to love. In this age of side hustles and grind culture, it’s refreshing to know I can have a hobby just to enjoy it, not necessarily with the objective to monetize or master it.
The next day, I hobbled onto the ice in my secondhand skates, complete with a pink heart sticker on the right skate’s toe from their last owner. It was a good thing Jessica and I had watched all those tutorial videos on “how to fall” because I fell a few times. (Once so hard that a little girl in a puffy blue snowsuit who was literally skating laps around me expertly stopped – with a deft shave of the ice – to ask, “Are you okay?”)
By the end of the afternoon, my bruised knees had all the plummy purples and soft yellows of a late summer sunset but I left the rink with a deep sense of satisfaction. Discovering a hobby I really love and enjoy also left me with hope for the future. As I enter my final term of undergrad, I often worry that life after school will be boring – far more regular and far less varied than the endlessly stimulating and colourful revolving door of people and courses I grew to love and thrive on. Stumbling upon a love for skating at the age of 23 has me realizing that I’ll be able new things to love, pursue, and improve as long as I’m alive.