Group Discount.

It’s the morning.

The herniated disc in my back, my previously fractured leg, the cold – all the reasons why the odds should be stacked against me made themselves apparent in the hazy swirl of thoughts that often preys upon the consciousness in the first waking moments.  I unlocked my phone screen and immediately opened Google Chrome to type in the search “ice skating for beginners.”

After reading the thirteen steps for beginner ice skaters on WikiHow as well as additional tips from eHow.com, I felt slightly more knowledgeable about the potential catastrophe I was hurtling towards with each passing minute.  I’m not sure why exactly the fear was so gradually suffocating, but I think that now, at the end of the day, I can only attribute it to a pride issue.  Mental images of slipping and falling on the ice terrorized me, and the fact that my back would potentially inhibit me from getting back up only exacerbated the apprehension.  At any rate, the desire to stay cool on the ice skating rink overwhelmed the childlike desire within to want to learn something new without the shadow of failure cast over the process of learning.

Eventually, welcome week BBQ at the pier turned into losing as Team DP with the brody, and soon I was on my way to Oxnard for our class hangout.  The food was good, but the joking fear continued mingling with every bite  I took, eventually satisfying my hunger with a lack of appetite.

As the minutes dwindled until it came time for me to face my greatest fear of the day, the Korean BBQ I had just consumed began crying for a mutiny within.

10 people to get the discount.  Well, I guess there was no getting out of this one.

Holly had to show me how to lace my ice skates first because I was a big-time amateur, and soon I was skeptically wobbling over to the lockers, where we put all our stuff.  Whew.  The rink awaited.

At first, holding onto the wall was seemingly my only lifeline.  Children of various ages cheerily held onto the wall or skated around expertly, making the snow seem about as adverse as a gentle marshmallow platform.  I, on the other hand, hobbled around the rink like the sixty-year-old man that I am at heart, devoid of the luxury of holding onto the wall due to a group of children occupying the wall space.  And so, I plodded along uncertainly, taking a step at a time to gain a feel for the slippery plane of embarrassment beneath my feet.  As time passed, the old rollerblading motion made itself accessible once again, and confidence began to grow.  Pace gradually picked up, and my brothers and sisters whisked by me,  proffering words of encouragement with every brisk stride they took.  The night grew older, and soon the exhilaration of speed replaced the tension of fear, and before I knew it, the night was over.

I’d like to say thanks to the people who went to the Channel Islands Ice Center with me today, one by one, because without you all, there’s no way I would have made it.  Y’all are the real MVPs.

Benny, thank you for skating slowly with me during the beginning of the night.  I know you didn’t have to go at my slow pace, but you did, and knowing that you were there and being able to talk to you was a big help to me at the beginning of the night.  It also brought a smile to my face whenever I would be near you and you would throw little bits of ice at me; something about the joy you took in that lit up my night as well.

Ranielle, thank you for the high five you gave me as you were practicing skating backwards.  It was a small gesture, but it made me happy knowing that at that moment, you too were learning and working on something, and it took off the burden to try and be good at something I was doing for the first time.  Your smile every time I saw you at various points of the rink reminded me of how I was supposed to be having fun and relaxing with my class.

Victoria, thank you for inspiring me with how graceful you were on the ice.  It is always such a blessing to see someone working in their element, and I feel like watching you skate on the ice rink today was exactly that.  Although I will never attain your level of proficiency on the ice, it was a real treat to see you spinning around without losing a step.

Scott, thank you for zipping around and showing me all the cool things that can happen on ice.  And also thank you for driving! But mostly for doing the skateboarding thing and also the running on ice; you are just a wizard in the winter sports realm.  Watching you move around and teaching members of our class was so encouraging because of how you just wanted to share you delight in ice skating.

Terrance, thank you for calming me down (or trying to) before I actually stepped on the ice.  You helped me laugh off some of the fear that was building up within me, and it was also particularly heartwarming seeing you and Irene skating in rhythm together hehe.  You really helped to take the pressure off of needing to succeed on the ice rink, and reminded me that “ice skating is pretty fun.” Kek.

Irene, thank you for coming out of nowhere and talking to me, quickly followed by Holly.  I know we don’t talk much, but thanks for talking to me when you were going slow enough to have the chance.  It was also really funny watching you and Holly holding hands and skating together because I wouldn’t have expected anything different from you two.

Holly, thank you for just being the trillmaster and helping me tie my right ice skate because I was a big noob and didn’t know how to.  Also, you constantly encouraged me by saying how impressed and proud you were of me, as well as challenging me to be even better by telling me to take longer strides when I was skating.  Watching you skating and taking pictures was also really quite impressive.

Lukey, thank you for always just smiling this smug little smile (that actually wasn’t smug, but one that sprung forth out of happiness at my progress) every time you passed by me.  As usual, it was a joy to see you just being good at stuff, and when you did that little spinny thing when you had the camera was cool, even though you said you didn’t mean to do it, but I know you’re just being humble 😉

Ben Chan, thank you for having the courage to admit that it was scary to go fast.  I think that I really understood you when you said that; though it might have seemed like I was having no problems, it was actually that I had an unfair advantage in that I had rollerbladed before.  Your perseverance pushed me to continue persevering as well, and it showed me something about going different paces and just hearing my own drummer.

All in all, it was a brilliant evening that I think really was a great time of bonding for our class.  Even though a few people couldn’t go, hopefully they can the next time because it was totally worth it.  On the surface, it would appear that we just ice skated, but I’d like to imagine that the small notes above say otherwise.  I learned a lot spiritually being on that ice and needing to be humbled while also remembering how to take joy in Christ, and I learned all of that just by watching all of you.  I can honestly say with real love in my heart that I’m blessed to have met all of you, AACF Class of 2016, and that you are all my greatest daily inspirations. Thank you for today.

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