I have a secret, that nobody in my professional life knows, and nobody in my private life knows. I can skate. I don’t just mean, “I can skate.” I mean, “I CAN SKATE.”
When I was a boy, I spent almost every weekend, for about ten years, at the rink near my house. I don’t even know how I got into it, but I remember that my parents would drop off my sister and I to skate, and we would skate all day long. My sister was just as good as I was, but in a different way. She chose figure skating. I chose competition speed skating.
What I loved most about skating was the fluid ease of motion, stretching my long legs in the straightaways, married with the thrill of driving my skates hard into each curve and accelerating out with a crossing-over and climbing motion that throttled me out of the curves with power. I could feel the tension in every muscle of my legs, in the swinging of my arms, in the low hunched-over form I pressed into to squeeze out every last millisecond of every curve. It was the most beautiful feeling, it was like flying.
To this day I still have the muscular calves of a speed skater. But I had forgotten all that graceful beauty in skating, lost over these adult years, until now. Today, for the first time since my childhood, I went skating. I almost didn’t know what to expect. I felt a nervous excitement while lacing up my boots as tightly as I could. But every fear fell away when I pushed off for the first time, immediately propelling to a quick pace ahead of the other skaters, without any effort. Within a few laps, it was as if I had returned to my boyhood self again, weaving gracefully in and out of the others, powering through turns, even skating in reverse at full speed a few times.
There are always a few people who are fast at the rink. But if you look at them, they typically overcompensate with power for the areas that they lack grace. They are an awkward jerking and pounding of skates that results in an almost reckless speed. But if you look at olympic skaters, what you see is a sleek, well controlled and rhythmic motion, a patterned swinging of arms, a well rehearsed stretching of limbs, a methodical perfection that dives into every curve and explodes out like a rocket escaping earth’s orbit. Olympians are fluid, elegant, and simply awe inspiring to me.
I like to think that I live my life the way I skate. I try to be graceful in struggles, to stretch my legs in the straightaways, to lean into the challenges, to power out with control and confidence, to edge out the competition a little more with each lap. Eyes sparkling, I can say that I love skating with all my heart, but I’m certainly no Olympian. At best, I’m just a boy who can fly, very fast, and with minimal effort. Remembering that, by putting all those muscles and reflexes back into fluid motion today, felt like I was wining a gold medal.