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Notes from the Rink

Notes from the Rink

The first time I tried ice skating was at my international student orientation in 2015. Fresh from Nigeria, I was expectant and eager to learn about my new environment. One of the events was a social at an ice skating rink. I showed up with the expectation that my new-found Nigerian friends who had been my orientation buddies that week were going to be there as well. Err, I turned out being the only black face there, so I was spurred to interact with the other cultures present.

Most of them were European and were very familiar with the concept of ice skating. We had barely changed into our shoes when they started running to the rink. Feeling a little left out and thinking the point of the trip would be futile if I didn’t try to partake in the fun, I headed out to the rink myself. I was genuinely confused and didn’t understand how people were racing around me when I could barely find my balance. I put one feeble foot forward and then another wobbly one holding on to the railings for dear life. I had barely spent 5 minutes on the rink when I fell and hit my head. Hard.

That single experience scarred me. I was rushed off the rink in to time. I appeared fine, but I was in so much pain. At that time, I didn’t realize what the word ‘concussion’ meant but one of our chaperones kept saying I might have one and offered to take me to the ER (Emergency Room). I knew little about the American healthcare system but thankfully had learned enough in my orientation classes just two days before to know that health care was expensive. I wasn’t sure if I had health insurance or how to make claims and was starting to feel better, so I declined the offer, went home, popped two pills of Panadol and went to bed. In hindsight, that move probably saved me almost a $1000 in charges so no regrets there 😊

“It didn’t take me long to realize that it was my fear holding me back from venturing out and having a good time”

I never went back to ice skating. Until Saturday. I was with a group of friends and someone suggested ice skating. There aren’t many fun things to do outside in the Chicago winter anyway. Call it crowd mentality, but I followed along and paid for the skates though I didn’t fully understand what I was doing. It wasn’t until I was standing on the edge of the rink that I realized what I had gotten myself into. I eventually summoned the courage to get on the rink, but you should have seen me. I was so afraid of falling again so I went super slow. I looked all around me and again watched people racing by effortlessly on their skates appearing to have the time of their lives, while I was stuck by the railings moving slower than a snail. Even the little kids raced around with no fear. Starting out on the rink, I had two other friends who were newbies like me. In no time they were both ahead of me and after a while, one of them was running around like a wannabe pro. Granted, he fell down like 10 times, but he would get back up each time and try again. I noted the difference. I was afraid to let go so I stayed in my corner.

It didn’t take me long to realize that it was my fear holding me back from venturing out and having a good timeI badly wanted to skate around with ease like the others around me, but I was hesitant. After completing one lap where I totally hogged the railings throughout, I told myself that my friend and fellow newbie, who by that time had gone about 3 laps around, didn’t have 2 heads. The others around me may have been skating for years such that they seemed like pros to me, but they also didn’t have 2 heads. What they can do, I can also do. I asked my friend who had been trying to get me to be less fearful to hold my hand and show me what to do. I’m grateful for her patience because gradually, I decided to let go and venture out on my own. After making one more lap with her holding my hand, I was confident enough to go around on my own for 2 more laps without holding the railings. At some point, we took a break, so the ice could be resurfaced, and I could not wait to go back out to put my newly learned skills to test.

Our wonderful teacher doing her thing

“We cannot always let things that have happened to us in the past keep us from enjoying the present”

You should already see where I’m going with this, but I’ll spell it out still:

  • In life, fear is crippling and has the power to hold us back from being our best selves. Even when we badly want to do something, fear can hold us back if we allow it
  • Sometimes, we need a good challenge to get us to step out of our comfort zone. If it were up to me, I would never on my own consider going to an ice-skating rink. I generally have no problems with being the odd ball and could have opted to sit the activity out while everyone else went ahead. For some reason, I decided to go along for the fun of it and to challenge myself to do something different
  • When you think you cannot do something, it’s in your mind. You really can do whatever you set your mind to as long as its realistic and within your natural ability. Diligence, practice and dedication are critical ingredients but a combination of all three will set you up for success
  • We can always draw inspiration from others around us. For me, what mostly fueled my renewed effort was seeing others skate effortlessly and knowing that I had the ability to do that too if I only let go of the fear that held me back
  • We cannot always let things that have happened to us in the past keep us from enjoying the present. I let my first experience deter me from trying ice skating and had declined other invitations in the past. Even when I finally decided to attempt again, I still let that fear of falling and hitting my head continue to hold me back. There’s nothing wrong with falling, but never stay down.
  • Lastly, overthinking things leads to hesitation which hinders productivity. Don’t overthink, just do it 🙂

You bet I’ll willingly suggest ice skating as an activity with friends next time. By the way, I also did not fall once. I guess my being extra careful worked.

Have you tried ice skating before? Are you a pro or scaredy cat like me? I’d love to hear what you think.

My buddies for the weekend.


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