I’m standing in a cramped pro shop in a rink that predates the Jurassic. The guy behind the counter looks me up and down and says, “It’s hard work. They’ll work you hard,” he pauses. “But you’ll have fun.”
“I’m not afraid of hard work,” I reply, and he gives me, what I hope, was an encouraging smile.
I’ve played this conversation over and over in my head for the past few weeks. Is he trying to warn me off? Should I have chosen the big rink’s learner program, where I can get lost in the crowd, rather than the small program?
Am I going to suck?
The answer to the last question is of course I’m going to suck, it’s inevitable.
I don’t care.
Over at r/hockeyplayers, user Stevetehpirate summed up the feelings of most of the subreddit:
“Striving to be less bad, one fall at a time.”
It’s true. It’s what we aim for. It’s why we keep getting back up each time.
I watched as BigRink (TM) put their beginner students through their paces last night. There were lots of spills, lots of unsteady feet, and very few successful hockey stops. I watched as their intermediate students took to the rink afterwards, and there were even more spills, more successes, and just as many frowny faces.
It’s part of the human condition to get frustrated when we aren’t good at things. It’s biologically hardwired from birth, our hindbrain knows that if you don’t succeed, you don’t eat. Modern life has softened us so now if we don’t succeed, most of us just give up and go onto something new.
I’m terrified I’m going to be terrible at this, but I’m not going to give in. I’m not going to throw tantrums when I can’t do something (watching people do that at BigRink last night made me die of second hand embarrassment for them). I’m going to pick myself up, take a breath, and keep going.
I acknowledge here and now that I’m going to fall on my ass (and my face), flounder around like a turtle on it’s shell, get bruises to my body and my pride, and I’m going to smile at every little achievement.
This is not some “be kind to yourself” self help chant. This is how it is.
I’ve been to six public skate sessions since I decided to give this a go. Is that enough? Probably not, but people start with a lot less.
So, with only hours until I trundle onto the ice for my first lesson, I’m a bundle of nerves and excitement, but thanks to the encouragement of the guys and gals at r/hockeyplayers, I’m going to get out there and Strive to be less bad, one fall at a time.