When I was asked to reflect upon my final year as a synchronized skater, the only words I could focus my attention on were final and year. I let the topic roll around in my head for a few days. I thought: How could this possibly be?
When those words pop into my mind as they have countless times over the past few weeks, a flash of my fourteen-year synchro career subsequently flashes by me. Images of my very first bright green Peter Pan costume when I was seven years old to the moment I was tightly squeezing my best friend’s hands as we found out we won the intermediate national championships. And the countless moments and friends in between–they all pass by me as if they were a different lifetime.
In one sense, the past four years in college have absolutely flown by. I’m in disbelief that I will soon be a graduating senior. But in another sense, those final years of synchronized skating, those last few competitions and trips, seem like decades ago.
I vividly remember my first competition as a college skater. We showed up in mismatched sweatshirts and different colored pants. I watched my old team perform in flawless synchronicity, and said “hi” to old friends and coaches. Everything felt different and strange and as though I was out of place, and truthfully I felt somewhat embarrassed to be part of my new team. Where I once proudly boasted a Team USA jacket and skated with confidence, I was now wearing a worn-in t-shirt that didn’t even state the school I was representing.
Over the next few seasons I let go of trying to re-create what I once had on my previous synchro team. I accepted that I will never wear a Team USA jacket to competitions, or proudly boast a national medal. I let go of the fact that Easterns did not fit into our tight budget, when in the past, no corner of the world was out of the question. I moved on from the day-long practices that I grew to love, the hours of travel, and team dinners that I looked forward to.
I learned to feel proud of representing a university instead of a country at competitions. I accepted, and learned to love the fact that practices were now only one hour at a time as opposed to four.
We’ve come a long way since that first competition three years ago as a team both on and off the ice. We purchased sleek black jackets, which help us feel more like a team, and our skating, while not flawless, has improved. I’ve also come a long way since that first competition. I watch my old team perform flawlessly and I’m not jealous or sad, but happy to have been part of it.
So coping with my final year of synchro has really been a slow four-year long process. From that first mismatching competition, to every practice in between, occasional team diners, and one or two medals; it’s taken many years and learning experiences. Though I once felt that I would lose my identity without synchronized skating, I feel more confident now that life will be okay when my skates are hung up for good. And when in doubt, a sleek black jacket will always make things a little easier.