If you asked me five years ago to describe myself using only two words, the answer you most likely would have received is "figure skater." For the majority of my life, figure skating has been a huge part of my identity. It's taken up more time, money, and energy than almost anything else I've been a part of, and the love I once had for it is unparalleled by most things before or since.
Growing up, there seemed to be nothing that compared to the crunch of sharp blades on freshly-cut ice, or the cold air hitting my face as I skated lap after lap of drills, or the deafening cheers from the crowd when my team completed a clean synchronized program after months of dogged determination. Hours upon hours spent at the rink were a reprieve, a way to escape from the drama of the rest of the world and just focus on perfecting patterns and elements and timing and all the other intricate details that make up the sport. Most of the things I (and my ever-supportive parents) did during my grade school years—the jobs took, the days of school and work missed, the hours spent coaching—were done for skating, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
But as my final years of high school rolled around, I realized that my attitude toward this keystone of my life was beginning to change for the worse. Late-night practices had always been draining, but whereas sharing a common goal with teammates I loved used to make them worth the exhaustion, I now began to find them stressful and time-consuming. I used to love to travel to far-away places for competitions, but traveling started to seem like nothing more than a burden that made me fall behind in school and spend ridiculous amounts of money. Even the post-competition adrenaline highs, the feelings of victory after a successful program that every skater will tell you makes the time and money worth it, weren't enough to keep me hooked on the sport because of how much I sacrificed along the way.
As senior year came to a close, I made the decision to not continue my skating career in college. In my final years, skating had drained me; it became a chore, a sinkhole for hard-earned money, and a source of incessant drama. I wanted to start the next chapter of my life without obligation, free to focus hard on my studies and spend as much (or little) time as I wanted on an array of other extracurricular activities.
Skating is a part of who I am today; it made me a more confident and independent person, it taught me how to lose with grace, and it showed me the importance of picking myself back up after every failure. I'll always be indebted to the sport for the lessons it taught me and the friendships it helped me forge, but I don't regret my decision to not be a part of an organized team in college. I'll never regret letting go of skating when I did because it no longer made me happy. Life is too short to waste time on things you aren't passionate about, and I'm glad I finally realized that.
And if the day ever comes when I miss skating, when its absence makes me feel empty and I begin to love it the same way I once did as a wide-eyed toddler in snow pants and brown rental skates, I know that my pair of battered Riedell's and my hometown rink will be right where I left them.