My Synchronized Skating Chronicles, Part 1: tryouts and my inane, yet rare, social awkwardness

I just recently got back from competing at the 2014 US Synchronized Skating Championships (Masters Division) and felt the need to recount my past season in agonizing detail.  Thankfully, I kept a journal that recorded every glorious moment.

My artistic representation of synchronized skating

My artistic representation of synchronized skating

How did I not get the memo?

At the ripe age of 31, I got introduced to the world of synchronized skating.  Though I skated my whole life, I somehow didn’t get the message on what exactly this thing is, how its such a big deal in the skating world and why so much make up is needed.    So… what is it?   It’s like if synchronized swimming and the Rockettes mated and their sublime offspring was born on the ice.  There is precision, theatrics and athleticism all bundled up in one big sparkly bow with false eyelashes and a lot of hair gel.   It’s truly impressive.

Skating Liza Minnelli's rendition of "New York, New York" at an Admirals Game.  Circa 1990-1991-ish

Skating Liza Minnelli’s rendition of “New York, New York” at an Admirals Game. Circa 1990-1991-ish

For me, my youth skating experience included some elementary forms of synchro.  We pulled together some team exhibitions for the local hockey team, the Norfolk (Hampton Roads) Admirals.  Our dresses were handmade and cheap – so that no parent had to spend excessive money.  No elements were entirely that difficult, and all skating levels were represented.  It wasn’t until my freshman year of college I stumbled across a legitimate, competitive skating team.  Being the 18-year-old brat that I was, I stayed on that team for exactly one semester before I quit.   From what I remember, it was fun, though I’m pretty sure the girls weren’t all that nice.

Some time last year, I heard that the DC area had a great reputation in the adult synchronized skating world and that their teams consistently placed well at Nationals.  My first thought was – whoa, a National competition?!?  My second was – the team that consists of adults?  You mean I’m not too old to still compete?!  As a competitive spirit, I was intrigued.  I marked the information session on my calendar and began my YouTube research.  Plus, one of my friends at the rink is a synchro goddess, and she was my biggest cheerleader in my attempts at learning a new skill.  What’s a synchro goddess, you ask?  It is someone who has been a part of this sport since he/she was a zygote and partakes in playing “fantasy synchro” each season.   Unbeknownst to me, that does in fact exist.

Performing part of the Nutcracker Suite to a surprisingly tame audience at an Admirals game.  Circa 1992

Performing part of the Nutcracker Suite to a surprisingly tame audience at an Admirals game. Circa 1992

The tryout or not

It was nearly tryout season.  I was looking forward to the information session, which was a precursor to the tryout.   I like trying something new, so it was going to be a fun adventure.  Plus, I was confident in my skating skills, so I was looking forward to learning something new.  Then, tragedy struck.  Well, not exactly.  I had an unfortunate reaction to a chiropractic adjustment, which not only made my back exceptionally tense to the point of not being able to turn my head, but also spurred a weekend full of debilitating migraines. This of course was aptly timed with the information session.  I felt like a big pile of steaming dog poo, and I didn’t want to go because I knew I wouldn’t skate my best.  I’m a perfectionist, so this was the absolute worst scenario that could possibly happen.   Also, I knew that for me to tryout, I needed to go to the information session.  I couldn’t just show up at the tryout and not know what is expected of me!  Actually, if I’m going to be totally honest here, a few weeks prior to the information session, I started to get cold feet for some unknown reason.  I suppose it was the fear of trying something new.  Sure, new is exciting, but it’s also scary, especially the older you get.  Anyway, for storytelling purposes, let’s ignore that particular fact and just concentrate on the fact that I had an epic migraine and my back hurt, and I was worried about not skating up to my already ridiculous high standard.

I digress…

I reluctantly went to the information session with my synchro goddess friend.   I was heavily medicated and didn’t know my butt from my elbow.   Naturally, not only did I feel like utter crap, but I also was totally socially awkward (I blame my concoction of medications).  I was not my finest self.  I still hang my head in shame when I think about it.   Anyway, after some off-ice discussions about the team, dues and practice times, it was time to hit the ice.  If I had to guess, I would say that I lasted about 10 minutes on the ice.  I was dizzy, in pain, nauseous and entirely drugged.  I apologized to the coaches and got off the ice.  As I was taking my skates off, I thought to myself, “well, I’m never coming back as I just made a total ass out of myself.  Hopefully, they forget about me, so I don’t need to recount this nightmare embarrassment.”

Official tryouts were the following week.  There was no way in hell was I going to show my face.  My ego was still bruised and it was going to take some time to forget my epic failure.  For the record, I should state that in retrospect, my skating wasn’t a total catastrophe.  For the 10 minutes on the ice, I skated just fine; however, because I’m a Type-A, anal-retentive perfectionist, I didn’t skate to my high standard.  Nevertheless, the coach sent me a very sweet email encouraging me to still try out.   Unsurprisingly, I wrote her a short essay (one of what became many) explaining my current physical and mental state, how I was too embarrassed to show my face again and my inexperience with synchro would probably result in me not coming back, but I would see how I felt at the end of the week.  The truth was I still was interested, but I still felt like crap and I was embarrassed for my poor showing.  Like much of my life, I decided to leave my synchro-fate up to fate.  If I felt good, I would suck up my pride and go tryout.  If not, then I would curl into a ball and hide, and pretend this never happened.

No, really, I made a t-chart to help me make a decision

No, really, I made a t-chart to help me make a decision

Fate spoke.  Tryouts came and went and I was nowhere to be seen.  Like clockwork, I ended up getting a bunch of migraines through that weekend and was totally useless.  The timing of tryouts also happened to correspond with a big work conference that I was managing, so I was under a fair amount of stress (and anger!), which is probably why I continued to be a hot-migraine-mess.  I sent another essay of an email to the coach apologizing for not coming, explaining my predisposition for migraines, thanked her for the vote of confidence.  I concluded with the fact that I was not meant to be a synchro skater, but perhaps next year.  The coach emailed me back and said that they saw enough of my skating, that they still needed a couple skaters and that they would love to have me, if I was interested.  I was shocked, honored and totally speechless.  I had a huge decision in front of me.  I knew it was going to be time intensive and expensive, but it would be fun and different.  The ladies seemed really nice and the coaches were obviously cool, especially if they were going to let a fool like me grace the ice with them.  So, like all good indecisive people do, I turned to a t-chart of pros and cons of joining the team.  Each day, I came up with a new point, or counterpoint, to joining the team.  It was exhausting.  I couldn’t reach a decision to save my life.  I changed my mind on what seemed to be an hourly basis.  My wonderful spousal equivalent was incredibly supportive and he told me to not worry about the finances, and that he would chip in more towards our mortgage and joint bills, so that I could live out my sparkly, synchronized dream.  After several rounds of email-essays and debates with the coach, I made my decision:  I was going to be a part of the 2013-2014 Master’s team.  I was certainly in for a fun, new and different experience.

To be continued…Part 2:  More social awkwardness, false eyelashes and the joy of competing


Vacation hangover

Coming back from vacation and facing reality is a hard pill to swallow.  It may be one of the most depressing events that we willingly and repeatedly do to ourselves.  We work really hard, sometimes at jobs that crush our delicate souls and are mind-numbingly dull.  We save our money and hoard our vacation time.  Then we’re off, like a bat out of hell, where there is no looking back, yet there is only blue skies and sunshine ahead. There aren’t any nagging bosses, or stressful unanswered emails or annoying coworkers.  It’s a freeing feeling where you feel weightless because there are no responsibilities.  Unfortunately, we’re like a boomerang, and we are forced to come back to the same reality we were initially escaping.  It’s sad, torturous and sadly, it’s a necessary evil. 

It goes without saying that I just got back from vacation, where I spent eight glorious days in Colorado.  The first half of my trip was a skating competition and the back half was just pure fun.  For those magnificent days, my only worries (aside from skating) were eating, taking in the fresh mountain air and just doing a whole lot of nothing.  I should also point out that I think I belong in Colorado – NOT because of the whole pot legalization thing (that’s never been my thing), but because of it’s laid back atmosphere.  At least in Denver and Breckenridge, everyone was happy, stress-free and enjoyed the outdoors.  Nobody seemed to take his or her life for granted.  Ultimately, that’s all I want:  carefree happiness in a beautiful setting.

I’m not saying that my life is difficult or particularly hard – it’s not, not even close.  I know that I’m very lucky for the things that I do have, and I’m eternally grateful for that.  However, I am a Type-A perfectionist, who knows that things could always be better.  Needless to say, I’m always looking for a way to improve upon my already stellar life.  To me, perfection is like a hard-to-attain target – it’s not impossible, but it’s exceedingly difficult.  Because I like a challenge, I’m always striving to hit that unspoiled, obsessive, demanding goal of sheer faultlessness. 

Anyway, while on vacation, I felt like I was the best version of myself.  I was happy and relaxed.  I still had my quick sarcastic comments, but nothing overly snarky.  I woke up every day smiling and was ready to take on the day.  There was nothing that I felt that I couldn’t handle.  It was empowering.  In contrast, back at home in super-uptight Washington, DC, I constantly feel defeated, tired and stressed.  I regularly suffer from debilitating migraines, and I battle feeling truly healthy and energetic.  Perhaps, it’s the environment, as I’m also surrounded by a bunch of intelligent, Type-A perfectionists, so by default, we up ante when it comes to stress.  Maybe, it’s my job.  Maybe, it’s the location.  Who knows?  

Personally, I think my body is just allergic to all things that are not-vacation.  Clearly, I need to live in a world that is a perpetual vacation that is sporadically interrupted by monotony and stress.  Not the other way around.  

I’m sure my utopia would get boring.  I’m sure, in some way that I would miss the professional rat race.  It’s possible that my high achieving self would get angry that I’m wasting my brain and my expensive science degrees on doing a whole lot of (happy) nothing.  I would probably begin to feel unfulfilled, but in a different way.  On top of that, all of my happiness would suck my sarcasm right out of my body.  I thrive on sarcasm, and it’s a trait of mine that has only gotten stronger as I’ve grown older (and more jaded).  It’d be weird to not see life through my acerbic lens.  So, until I can figure out how to have the perfect life of a perpetual vacation that is both professionally and personally rewarding, I will continue to daydream and do my best to pay attention at work until this vacation hangover passes.

Beautiful, glorious Breckenridge Colorado

Beautiful, glorious Breckenridge Colorado