This is me in the middle of a failure. Of course I didn’t yet know that I was failing the skating test. The five people in the back were the judges who watched every flick of the blade with acute eagle vision. Each sorry scratch was a notch off my score, and they appeared with trumpeting sound on the silent ice. With no music and no other soul to fill the rink, I was the hero who would make or break the performance. And I failed.
Just before Sophie’s first birthday I began to figure skate as a way to escape the chaos of raising a baby and a toddler. The first skating test came six years after Sophie was born. (Goals are achieved in baby-toothed size increments when you are an adult skater.) I loved the feeling of being graceful on the ice; even if I didn’t look graceful, I felt like I was. This was important to me because I never felt graceful as a mother.
I practiced for one year with a private coach to pass my Adult Bronze Moves-in-the-Field test. I had passed the Pre-Bronze one year prior and was excited about my achievement. Working on each skill required full focus and I relished that.
I didn’t sleep at all the night before the test. My nerves were on EXTREME mode, thinking of the worst that could happen: falling during the test. I dragged my heavy skate bag on my heavy shoulders to practice at 6:45 in the morning. My test wasn’t until about 10:45, so I wisely decided to consume a triple Americano to keep me alert.
Hours later my turn on the white slate finally arrived. My supporters were there: my husband filmed from the sidelines, my coach observed from the doorway, and fellow skating friends watched from behind the plexi-glass. I was all alone on the big old ice with the big old judges judging.
Protocol calls for a short discussion with the judges before you begin the test. They smile and encourage and try to reveal the fact that they are humans. This is a hard fact to remember when you’re nervous and have had a triple Americano, even if it was hours earlier. My fight-or-flight sensors kicked in; I needed to do something scary or run out of there. The judges asked me if I’d be more comfortable with a jacket. Wanting them to understand the severity of my predicament, I replied “No, my armpits are really sweaty right now.”
Well, that was a great way to start! I continued in this fashion for the rest of the test. Shaking the entire time, I fell during a move and had to finish the test with two big wet marks on my legs. (Somehow my husband didn’t record the fall so this fact is disputable.) I took my curtsy and left the ice. Graceful or not, it was over and I could enjoy being with my family without being judged.
I didn’t enter nor did I pass this test gracefully, but it didn’t break me. I passed it two years later.