The Journey

Ice Skating
By Jesse Prichard

I feel like a grandma. A blur of what looks like a 6-year-old girl cuts me off at incredible

speed, ignoring any semblance of traffic law. It's all I can do to not collapse. My limbs wave wildly as I try to collect my balance, until both of my skates contact the ice again. My spastic movement slows. I feel like the whole ice rink acted as the audience to my run in with the kindergartener, but she doesn't seem to notice that anything happened.

From experience on the ice rink, I know that if she had fallen, she would have bounced off the ice like a rubber ball and skate on without thinking twice. I, on the other hand, have twice as far to fall, and don't have the yoyo-like recovery of small children.

Why do I even try? It's easy to see why this Michelle Kwan-to-be skates; she knows what she's doing. I, however, don't. If I was born to do one thing, it isn't ice skating. But when I'm on the ice I feel a joy akin to that of a leech in a kiddie pool.

I'm in class. The classroom is an ice arena surrounded by shatterproof glass, and all my fellow Whitworth students are studying crossovers and salchows instead of proofs and comparative politics. For some, it's their first moment on the ice. As a senior, this is the seventh time I've taken ice skating. That's got to be a Whitworth record.

I can skate backwards. But so can that freshman who just started this class a couple of weeks ago. This doesn't weigh on my smile, though. I'm satisfied with my improvement, even if it took my entire college career to obtain my current "advanced beginner" level.

Ice skating is something that came as a late love in my life. Starting my freshman year of college, it became clear that I was not a born skater. It was near failure from the beginning. Being the slow kid in the slow class is about as fascinating as it sounds. But I persevered. My roommate registered for the class before I did, and he was a quick learner. I often rode with him to local hockey games. One of our good friends proved to be a hero on the ice for the Whitworth team. Just watching my friend soar across the rink inspired me to one day try out for the Whitworth hockey team, even if it meant joining as the worst hockey player in history.

Don't be mistaken. I do things that I excel at as well. I'm taking advantage of language classes while at Whitworth, because I possess a natural knack for that sort of thing. But I think we should all try something we're bad at. My goals for skating don't sound lofty in comparison with the aspirations of others, but it was never about comparisons anyway. This is about doing what I love.

Whitworth's ice skating class started with a personal goal. I've been witness to class instructor Daman Hagerott's first-day speech each of my four years as an undergrad, where he proclaims to the class that his personal goal is to get at least one person addicted to skating.

He has certainly succeeded with me.

I aim to prove G.K. Chesterton correct when he said, "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly." I can't skate like Wayne Gretzky. I try not to compare myself with other skaters, but I can always compare my feats today with those of yesterday.

I'm still in class, this time on a team of five protecting a three-foot-long pine board which we use for a goal in pond-hockey. I have improved over the years. The puck draws near to our goal, and I manage to wrest control of it from an opponent and skate in the direction of the opposite board. I don't maintain control for long. Once again, I feel like an octogenarian as a seasoned hockey player overtakes me from behind and recaptures the puck.

After four years on the ice, I now show the signs of someone who could possibly learn to play hockey. But the battle has been long. My teammates, other repeat students of the class, are able to duplicate my ability in three classes or less. I try to keep it a secret. I can look good on the ice as long as they don't know I've been to this rink as long as I've been in college.

The puck comes loose on the far side of the rink. Ricocheting off the wooden walls, it scrapes across the ice toward me. My chance has come. I dribble it across the rink, dodging bodies as if I'm late for the train. An opponent dashes quickly at me. I shoot the puck off the wall to my left, spin around the oncoming player and pick up the rebounding puck behind him. I feel the elation rising. I near the opponents' goal, with just one sophomore girl standing between me and victory, and I shoot.

And miss. The puck strikes the back of the rink, and another senior races it towards our goal with cheetah-speed and scores. I can't help but still feel victorious.