Since I was a little girl, I have dreamt about standing atop a national podium. It wasn't even so much a dream as a predetermined destiny. I had always felt in my bones that it was meant for me.
Consequentially, I grew up in the fierce and unapologetic world of competitive figure skating carrying this "destiny" upon my shoulders like the weight of the world. Despite how much I truly did love the sport, I developed an attitude at a very young age that accepted absolutely nothing short of perfection. It was maddening. Each day of practice felt like an impossible test, one that I wouldn't ever pass, because in my eyes, I was never good enough.
I remember feeling dread in the pit of my stomach and being extremely nauseous every day when I pulled up to the rink for practice. I remember kicking the ice in fits of rage and screaming at the top of my lungs when I faltered even the slightest. And above all, I remember the pain in my heart when I realized I no longer loved this sport, but in fact hated everything about it, and everything about myself.
My senior year of high school it got to the point where I could no longer take the pain that skating was inflicting on my life and spirit. I was absolutely burnt out and reaching the brink of insanity. On a whim, I decided to try synchronized skating at a college level. It seemed like a good way to stay in shape and at least still be on the ice in some way. But in my mind, I was giving up on my dream completely. My goals, my passions, my calling, that was all over. I entered my freshman year still heartbroken and extremely hesitant about this new form of the sport I had little understanding of.
Needless to say, I didn't adjust right away. Having teammates was an extremely odd and novel concept to me, as I was previously used to training-mates who wanted nothing more than to drag me down and surpass me. It was hard for me to understand my new teammates' constructive criticism as coming from a place of truly caring. I also struggled with trying to change my attitude and recover from the heartbreak of giving up on my lifelong dream. I was stubborn and still wary if this whole "synchronized" thing was really for me. Above all, there was no easy way to heal my past wounds with skating so quickly, and every time I took to the ice alone, tears would well up almost instantly.
But somewhere halfway through first semester, there was a shift. People started telling us we were good, honestly and genuinely meaning it. People believed in us. It kind of made me believe in us. The idea of being competitive and reaching new heights lit an excited spirit inside me, and for the first time in almost a year, I thought to myself, maybe the dream isn't over after all.
As we continued to push on through the season, my teammates absolutely astounded me. Never in my life had I met a group of girls with such strong dedication and work ethic who fearlessly chased after what they wanted with everything they had. We worked together in a way that was almost magical. Like each slightly imperfect and broken piece of us fit together to create the most beautiful puzzle. Alone, each of us was just a girl, but together we were something more. We were something great.
Saturday, March 2, this greatness was put on display for the nation to see. For three minutes and 50 seconds, we were utterly untouchable. When we received our scores, I cried tears for so many reasons. For these beautiful girls surrounding me, whom I would have never imagined I would find, for the hard work and dedication we put in all season, for the love of this sport I could've sworn I had lost forever, but most of all for the dream I thought was long dead.
At that moment, the destiny was sealed. I was a national champion.
There are so many ways I imagined it, but I certainly never imagined doing it with 19 other girls by my side. I can honestly say winning this championship with my teammates right next to me is the greatest honor of my life. Looking back now, I know that this is what was meant for me all along: this unforgettable season of a lifetime that saved my love for skating and reminded me what it was like to dream. My teammates and I have dubbed each other "the team I never knew I needed," and it couldn't be truer. I never knew I needed teammates. I always thought I would grow through everything alone, earn everything by myself, and stand atop that podium solo. It might be what I expected, but it was never what I needed. This is what I needed all along.
Thank you from the very bottom of my heart. There's no other way I would have wanted to reach this dream.