Commentary – Skating as a metaphor for life

Pearl Lorentzen

I don’t remember learning how to skate, but I remember the one time I used hockey skates. It was trippy, in both senses. I kept trying to fall down and my mind was doing mental gymnastics because it was just a little bit different.

Over Christmas, I went skating with my family on Bower Ponds in Red Deer. My niece and nephew can skate but are learning advanced skills. As I helped them (the one with hockey skates and the other with figure skates), I was reminded of my experience on hockey skates.

The basic skills of squat, push, glide are the same on both types of skates, but the centre of gravity is slightly different. On both types of skates, you focus your weight on the middle of your foot, but the safest direction to be off kilter is opposite. On figure skates you err toward the back of your skates to avoid the toe pick. On hockey skates, you shift your weight slightly forward to keep balance.

To learn from someone with a different type of skate requires a certain amount of translation. It is a combination of watching, trying, asking, listening, and modifying your actions to fit what works for you.

This got me thinking about how many things in life require translation. We learn things all the time. We learn from teachers, parents, friends, siblings, grandparents, neighbours, and strangers. As we are learning, we translate what the other person is doing into what works for us.

With exercise, it is often imperative that we learn the skills properly so we don’t hurt our muscles. With other things, like art, a more fluid approach is possible. However, even in that a specific focus on the mechanics of the movement can make a big difference on the final product.

Everyone’s body and experiences are slightly different. We learn postures and habits from the people closest to us. Many of these become so innate that we don’t remember where or how we learned them.

If we want to pass the information along, we have to break it down into the moving parts. The only reason I have any insight into the mechanics of skating is because I have taught other people over the years. I don’t remember learning myself.

By having to reflect on what I am doing to help someone else, I have learned a lot. This knowledge has increased my enjoyment and helped other people gain an understanding of something that I love.

I have helped kids, adults, and many others learn to skate. Many of the adults grew up outside of Canada. Not all Canadians skate, but there seems to be an expectation it is something you understand. However, in many countries it is not a default activity.

It is not intuitive any more than reading. It can feel intuitive if you learned young and have done it your own life, but that is an illusion. Being the second oldest cousin to a large brood, I have probably been teaching people to skate as long as I have been skating.

Skating is a part of my identity. It is something that I enjoy, and something that I like to pass on.

One of the ways that we connect as humans is through learning. Every human has something that they can teach and many things that they can learn. As you reflect on a new year, why not think about something that you want to teach and someone who has a skill you would like them to teach you.

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