On Coldness

(If you’re curious, I just posted my RBA from my writing class in my other blog. It’s long, but potentially interesting)

Thanks to the work of our wonderful residential assistants (RAs), my current dorm plans a lot of fun events, including laser tag, a 49ers game, and more. This Friday evening, we went ice skating.

It’s been just over 10 years since I last skated. Back in Toronto, the critical choice for kids was whether they were going to play hockey or figure skate. Since my parents valued my teeth and temper, they enrolled in evening figure skating lessons at one of the local rinks, so from about kindergarten to 3rd grade when I left, I figure skated during the winter months. The level of instruction didn’t teach us anything fancy, but I was fairly comfortable on the ice and could skate relatively safely.

When I heard that our dorm was going ice skating, I got very excited and signed up immediately. Up until we went, I was getting more and more anxious–both the good and bad kind–about skating. In reviving skills, it’s like riding a bike. Or so I hoped.

Laced up, I stepped onto the ice and immediately felt uncomfortable. The weight and bizarre balance of the skates quickly reminded me of skiing last year, and that was a very humbling experience. Consciously, I knew (and could see) that skating was about kicking/pushing with one foot while gliding on the other, but my feet only seemed to take timid steps. With a little more movement, I got back into the habit of letting my lifted foot go backwards instead of stepping forward and I started to move.

Fortunately, I didn’t feel really awkward with my futzing as my dormmates were of all skills, and some certainly had greater difficult than me. I got to laps almost immediately, yet I was moving really slowly and had to consciously think about the mechanics of skating.

Skating is a relatively good small-talk topic for me because I do have the story above, and I am kind of still a figure skating fan thanks to my mom and sisters. More notably, skating lets me tie in my Canadian heritage to the Texas (hook ’em!) hoodie I wear everywhere. When I first came to Stanford, I was never quite sure what to say when someone asked where I was from. My last and longest residence is in quiet Katy, Texas, but that place doesn’t match with my self-image. Perhaps my vague disagreement with Texas contributes to this, but even so many years behind, I still consider myself mostly Canadian. Regardless, the “correct” answer is really Houston, but I always thought about (and promptly rejected the notion of) qualifying my response with “but I’m really from Toronto.” Unfortunately, that’s a little more complicated and more than most people probably care about, so I just wait until they ask about the Canada stickers on my computer.

So for a long time, “Houston” was my immediate answer, but in retrospect, I was never really comfortable with it. That wasn’t really a lie, but it also wasn’t the whole truth. Admittedly, my time in Katy has changed me tremendously from my roots that I don’t wholly remember, but some part of me still clings to it. Since I’ve arrived here at Stanford, I feel like I’ve let my Canadian creep back into me. I do have some sort of response whenever someone brings up a “South Park” joke, and inquiries about my intent to vote meet the country of my citizenship. And my indirect methods seem to work as I get fewer and fewer looks of surprise when I reference Canada.

Anyways, I continued to skate, only having one near fall when I lodged the front pick part of the skate in the ice, which I’m sure was extremely comical to watch. I admired an older man giving lessons to a young girl, including some amazing demonstrations on his part. I talked to some of the beginners as I came around to them, and I began to think about how I would formulate my experience in a blog post. At that exact time, an amazing thought came: I was actually thinking about my blog, not about skating. And clearly, I was doing okay.

When I get back into an activity, sometimes it’s “just like old times.” When I picked up N64 Smash for the first time again this quarter, I was immediately flooded with combos and old memories. But when I found myself skating on autopilot, I didn’t really feel it. I honestly don’t remember a lot about my skating lessons, and skating didn’t feel like how I thought it would. It just kind of felt right. Somehow, over a couple of scary laps gradually shifting into other points of attention, I guess skating had gradually crept back into me until I had a working ability without any conscious basis. Admittedly, years of disuse have deteriorated my overall ability, but it didn’t feel any less right. I was just kind of happy to realize something I had tucked away for so many years.

One reply on “On Coldness”

My home was in Gravenhurst for 18 years; then Toronto for 4 years; Evanston, IL for 2 years; Los Angeles for 2 months; Vancouver for 2 years, and now Toronto for 23 years. My day job has me spending lots of time in the United States — with a high record one year of filing 150 days south of the border — and my academic research has had me spend 4 to 8 weeks in Finland every year for the past five years. Those who look at my travel schedule wonder if I really have a home.

I now say that I’m from Toronto, but it takes a lot of years to catch up to a childhood in a small town. I can now say that I’ve lived in Toronto for longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, but there’s still part of me that is from Gravenhurst. I may travel to the big cities, but part of my behaviours come from predispositions acquired while living in a town of less than 3000 people.

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