How Figure Skating Changed My Life
Feature image: Lily Karen
Seven months ago, I was lost. I was broken. I was defeated. I was at the lowest point of my life, and nothing seemed to be going right. Spring had been filled with endless struggles, and I ended up deciding not to return to what I once thought was my dream school. So I packed up my little dorm room, said goodbye-o to Ohio, and came home with more baggage than just my suitcases. I was confused about what to do next and didn’t even know if I wanted to go back to college at all, so I made what turned out to be the best decision of my life: I took a gap semester.
Yes, a gap semester, because apparently a gap year was too mainstream for me. Some people spend their gap years volunteering overseas, interning in the city, or starting their own businesses; I got a job at Bath & Body Works, applied to several universities, and became immersed in the world of figure skating.
Hold up Aly, did you say figure skating?
Yes, I said figure skating, and yes, it’s kind of a funny story.
You may be thinking, What, did you quit school and start training for the Olympics or open your own ice rink or something weird like that?! Although I did start taking skating lessons again for fun, it was joining the figure skating fan community that really made the biggest difference in my life. Thanks to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, those infamous Canadian ice dancers who won gold at the 2018 Olympics and enchanted the world with their saucy Moulin Rouge program, I was pulled back into the world that had been my first love since day one.
When I was five years old, I saw the movie Ice Princess and fell in love with everything about figure skating. There was only one problem: my mom wouldn’t let me take skating lessons. But after five years of begging, memorizing Michelle Kwan’s life story, and sleeping with the two skating books from my elementary school’s library under my pillow, she finally agreed. So when I was ten, I started skating and continued for several years, until I quit to focus on theatre. Actually, I quit because I wasn’t that good and didn’t have the money or, frankly, the talent necessary to become a champion, and my perfectionistic ass decided it was better to quit than to fail.
So figure skating and I were broken up for a few years until the 2014 Olympics reignited my love for the sport. That soon wore off as well, and it wasn’t until I watched Virtue and Moir in 2018 that skating came back into my life for good. Long story short, even though I wasn’t the best skater, I loved the skating world, I loved the way skating brought music and stories to life, and most importantly, I loved the people who also loved what I loved. I became part of the skating community on Twitter, and say what you want about fangirls and internet friends, but Twitter introduced me to hundreds of amazing people from all over the world and gave me the greatest friends.
So why exactly am I going off on a tangent about how much I love figure skating? Well, it’s because the coolest experiences of my gap semester were all because of skating. In September, my mom and I took a road trip to Salt Lake City to attend the US International Figure Skating Classic and met up with some Twitter peeps. In November, I flew to Canada by myself to watch Tessa and Scott’s Thank You Canada Tour ice show and came face-to-face with the people who had made such a big impact on my life. And in a few weeks, I’ll be flying to Chicago to see my friend Lizzie, who I met once I became a figure skating fan again. All of these experiences colored who I am as a person and gave me different perspectives on both the world and myself. And isn’t that what a gap semester or year is supposed to do?
I never wanted to travel before I got into skating; I always had my blinders set on Broadway and my heart set for New York City. But now, I want to visit all these tiny European countries and watch figure skating competitions in Japan and drive across Canada. I also started learning French on Duolingo, which is ironic because I HATED French in high school (it was the only class I ever got a C in).
And while it’s not healthy to put your emotional well-being in the hands of social media, I was at a point where that was all that I had. On Twitter, you can be whoever you want to be, and on Twitter I wasn’t depressed, needy Aly; I was funny, creative, witty Aly who wrote puns and funny one-liners and made friends with everyone. Basically, I was my best self, which hadn’t shown up in the “real world” for quite some time. But slowly and surely, “the real Aly” made her new and improved debut with a positive outlook and fierce determination, this time in real life. She decided that she loved being creative so much that she wanted to do it as a career, and so she applied and was accepted into ArtCenter College of Design, which she’ll be starting at in January as a BFA Advertising major. (Sidenote: it’s really fun to talk about yourself in third person.)
My new perspective on life came because I realized that I am actually talented and I do have actual potential and I can contribute to this world. In the past seven months, I interviewed skaters for my blog, helped trend a hashtag for an up-and-coming ice dance team, created skating merch and art, led a project with people from over eleven countries, made music videos, and improved as a writer, artist, and person. All of this was for fun, but one day I realized that I was using skills that could be applied in the real world, not just on Twitter. When I realized that I had potential and didn’t completely suck, it was a big turning point in my life.
Thanks to figure skating, I gained:
confidence in myself and my abilities (woohoo!)
the capacity to address my weaknesses in a constructive way (harder than it sounds)
a diverse community of friends who supported me through thick and thin (Love ya #CPom Squad)
a newfound sense of wanderlust and love for travel (Montreal, I’m coming for you!)
an interest in other languages and cultures (Oui, je suis un fan de patinage artistique.)
memories and experiences I would have never had if not for skating (#TTYCT!)
a physical activity I actually enjoy doing (I know, shocker)
endless hours of entertainment (bless the Grand Prix season)
But best of all, I gained a purpose and a future. I regained hope when I thought it was gone forever, and for that I am forever grateful. So while the skating world is not by any means perfect, it was the perfect way to bridge the end of one chapter into the beginning of another. As I take the first step towards my dreams, I will be forever indebted to the wonderful world of figure skating for giving me a home and changing me for good.
Is there anything that has changed your life dramatically? Tell us in the comments.