Skating for me on some level doesn’t “make sense”; witness the surprise of some of my colleagues and friends after they read about my competitions in the local paper or our departmental newsletter. There are more efficient and less costly ways of working out, there is little hope that I’ll ever do a triple axel (sigh), and I used to joke that at the rate I’m passing my USFS ice dance tests, by the time I finish my golds I’ll be dead. But most people will acknowledge the importance (and privilege) of having something in one’s life that doesn’t make sense: doesn’t produce some kind of marketable product, isn’t part of a professional profile, isn’t motivated by the desire for public recognition. In some ways, competitive skating has been one huge excuse: I have done six years of competition at the adult level (one with Kevin for Adult Midwestern Sectionals, and five with Jim at the Adult National Championships). Competition has many benefits, such as meeting old and new skating friends around the country and experiencing the rush of performance. But for me the most important reason is that it has allowed me to train as if I were competitive, to have an excuse to put time, resources, and effort into skating for its own sake.
For many people, that expenditure of time, energy, and money isn’t rational (especially without intelligible goals such as a national competition), and sometimes their influence is so overwhelming that I start to give way to it myself. For that reason, I try not to count how many hours, how much money spent on lessons and ice time, how much mental energy I expend on this sport. I recognize how privileged I am not to have to count these things. I never could have done this as a child; competing would have been far beyond the reach of what my family would have been able to afford. But as an adult, I can reserve some part of my life for an activity in which time, space, energy, bodily labor, and human relationships don’t have to be about productivity, commodification, networking, or social status. Skating has its own logic, articulated through those things that exist for their own sake: speed and flow, the curve of edges, the shape and lines of the body, balance, pulse and rhythm, unison. Because they are not always readable to those who don’t skate, they might seem a bit crazy: but in the ice rink these things make their own kind of sense.