Learning The Hard Way

Carly - Marietta, Georgia
Entered on December 17, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: purpose, sports
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I started competitively figure skating when I was five years old. I looked up to my cousin for her grace on the ice, and my biggest dream was to glide on the ice like her.

When I finally convinced my mom to buy me ice skates and all the trimmings, I then got a coach. I progressed quickly, eventually surpassing my cousin in both precision and skill. People were amazed what my then little body could do. I was unstoppable.

As I began to learn more difficult things, like double jumps and more advanced spins, I was surprised how hard I had to work to achieve a seemingly simple twist in mid-air. When I started to work on the technique of my axel jump, a 360 degree turn in mid-air that is much harder than it sounds, the real physical pain started. My falls became more frequent and more painful, but every fall coached me in its own way. Even when I did painful belly flops on the cold, hard ice, it proved to be worth my while in the end.

Many gold medals later, I quit ice skating. What started out as a childhood dream slowly began devouring my entire life. I skated from 3 to 6 PM on an almost daily basis. I often faked sick so my mom wouldn’t take me to my lessons. The life of a figure skater was far too confined for me – figure skating was my dream, but I didn’t want it to be all I had in my life. By the time I would get home at night, I had time to eat dinner, do my homework, and go to bed. Towards the peak of my ice skating career, I had nothing resembling a social life.

Even though I no longer ice skate, I’ll take with me forever the lessons that I learned. I grew and learned from my falls and my bobbles. It eventually hit me one day: all the scrapes and the bruises (trust me, the ice isn’t as friendly as it looks) contributed to an overall lesson that everything happens for a reason; everything is a learning opportunity.

Later, when I neared the end of elementary school and started middle school, I was given a series of opportunities to apply my new-found philosophy. Over the course of three years, my parents divorced, my grandfather died, and both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer. My life was systematically shattered over the course of three devastating years.

I remained positive, though. I always fell back on the thought that I wouldn’t experience these challenges unless I could gain something from them, and honestly, the three most devastating years of my life taught me more than the years of blissful childhood. The tragedies in my life brought my newly-shattered family together more than anything ever has. What first appeared to me as a tip to being a resilient figure skater turned out to be a life lesson. All of life’s many experiences happen for a reason.