If you don't know already, I'm a figure skater. I started skating when I was three years old. I was training six times a week, two to four hours a day. There would be some Saturday mornings or winter breaks, I would wake up at the crack of dawn so I could travel to different rinks. I would train with one of the top coaches and skaters. This was my routine for the longest time and as you can see, I never had a normal childhood.
It was exciting, don't get me wrong but I wasn't like other kids. I had to watch what I ate, intense off-ice training right after practice, doing homework in the car on the way home from practice, and not being able to hang out with friends because I had a practice or a competition. However, it was all worth it because I was on the road to success. However, for doing something for almost 11 years by the time you reach high school, something changed inside of me. I started developing hatred towards skating.
It's sad to think that sports can become too competitive and where it can consume someone's life. However, that's what happened to me. Since I have been skating for over a decade, I have developed this attachment to skating. It's that really clingy friend where you keep asking for space but they don't budge. That's my relationship with skating. Although, I love this sport so much and I feel like skating is the only thing that I was good at. Every time I have a moment of doubt or overwhelming stress of quitting, I start having an identity crisis, feeling like a nobody if I lost it.
Have you ever heard the term, "tiger parenting?"
If not, it is where parents raise their children in a strict, demanding way. However, the immense pressure not only comes from parents but it can come from coaches, teammates, or even themselves. Mainly for me, it has come from my mom and coach. Although I am grateful for everything that they have done for me, it has caused me to negatively change. I remember those days where if I made a mistake or I accidentally missed a jump, you knew that my mom was on the other side of the glass surrounding the rink with a disappointing face. I was scared to take a break for just a second because I knew my mom would lecture me about wasting her money. My coach made me the perfectionist I am today and had a lot of criticism. All this pressure to be perfect all the time slowly impacted my confidence and I started to question my own abilities. I felt like I had to constant please everyone except myself.
In my rink, I was one of the top skaters. On the outside, I was quiet and reserved but I worked hard every single day and always put my best foot forward. That's what I put out to the world. However, on the inside, it was a different story. Those thoughts that were saying that I wasn't good enough or I was a disappointment if I don't win was creeping up on. I had to fulfill the expectations of being a "star" and because of this standard, I pushed myself to the point where I could taste blood every single day after practice because of the loss of breath.
These expectations get to my head so bad that I make mistakes that I would never have made. It was two years and I can still see the disappointment from my coach's face when I stepped off the ice from my performance. I was the worst program I have ever done in my life and I was on the verge of tears. However, I managed to still place in the top three and that gave me a bit of confidence back. Then my coach stated the words that knocked me right back down, "Okay, you would've won if you didn't mess up." I still think of one particular word: okay. The statement, "you're just okay" plays round and round in my mind.
When high school started, I focused a lot on my academics and I didn't have the time to go to the rink as much. It was around the time I started to gain weight. I could feel myself losing that "perfect" skater body and I tried to keep it off. It also didn't help when my coach started to hound me to lose 15-20 pounds. The shame that hung over me when anyone mentioned my size and the idea of not fitting in was terrifying. I would compare myself to others and it would bring my self-esteem down even more.
I'm still skating despite all of those problems. Most of you must be wondering why I don't just quit. It is something that I'm very passionate about and it will always be a part of me. I have cut down on the hours of skating, focused more on school and made time for myself. Though I may not be an elite skater or a world champion, I have never been so proud of myself.