Get back up again
By Mikayla H
My skates slid out from under me and I landed on the ice with a thud. Sighing, I stood back up, glad no one was there to witness the mess I was making of my routine. It had been a bad week, and the stress of it all was coming out in my skating. My trainer had died, and I had lost two competitions, leaving me feeling confused and depressed. Everyone told me I had talent, and I loved doing it, but sometimes it didn’t seem worth it to spend all my time on something as petty as a sport. I spun, slowly lifting my leg until I was looking up at the heel of my skate. My blade made a satisfying swishing noise as it spun, kicking up ice shavings as it went. I brought my leg down and slid over to the benches on the edge of the rink. Taking a seat, I untied my pastel pink skates. They had been a gift from my parents on my nineteenth birthday last month. I slipped on my shoes and hung my skates over my shoulder.
I stepped out into the almost empty street and took a deep breath of the chilly winter air. I loved the cold; it was so crisp and fresh. A shiny blue bus came into view right as I rounded the corner; I picked up my pace, glad that I had caught it in time. The machine next to the driver chirped happily as I slid my pass, and I took a seat near the front. The city flew by as the bus picked up speed, and I sighed as I remembered there was one last competition the next day.
“It’s just a competition Gracie; you don’t have to do it.” I whispered to myself reassuringly. But somewhere my brain was yelling at me that I couldn’t give up before I tried.
“Drury Hotel.” The bus driver called, opening the door.
I was the only one who got off at the tall building. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was where I called home for the week. I went inside and took the elevator to the third story and unlocked my room. It was a comfortable little place, with a kitchenette attached to the living room and a small bedroom. It was perfect for a week from out of town, and I enjoyed having the time to myself.
I plopped down on the couch and slid my ice skates off my shoulder. I sat for a moment, enjoying the stillness of it all before I turned on my laptop and typed in my password: Persevere. Why did I set it to that? I thought sighing; I didn’t really want to persevere right now. I clicked on my browser and opened up my Yahoo account, hoping an actual person had emailed me instead of the ten or more automatic updates that usually sat in my inbox. By some sort of miracle there were three emails from real live people, the most interesting of which was from my big sister, Ester.
Hey Gracie, It read.
Mom told me about your competitions, I am so sorry. I wish I could have been there for you but with collage and all it was just impossible. I know you’ve got one more competition so let me know how it goes.
Just do your best and leave the rest up to God. Know that I’ll be cheering for you!
Lots of Love, Ester
I smiled; Ester always knew what to say and when to say it. I closed down my computer and hurried to get to bed. It had been a long day and I was tired.
Why does morning always come so soon after I’ve gone to bed? I slammed my hand down on the small clock; succeeded in making it fall to the ground and turn off at the same time. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and stood up, wishing I didn’t have to go anywhere today.
“Do you want me to enter, God?” I asked, only half meaning it as I picked out a pair of jeans and a polo shirt. “I mean, it’s just a contest. Does it really matter that much?”
A little voice in my head was saying it mattered a lot, but I was reluctant to accept it. I was tired, worn and ready to give up.
“When you are weak I am strong.” The verse played itself over and over in my head, refusing to let me forget the hours I had spent memorizing it and others like it.
I took a quick shower and dressed, and then I grabbed my bag with my skates and outfit in it and went down to the bus stop. I probably could afford a rental car, but I didn’t like traveling alone. I loved being able to see new people every time I go somewhere.
The bus didn’t take long to get there, and I sat next to a man who didn’t speak English, causing me retreat to my phone to scroll through endless Facebook updates till we arrived at the skating arena. I hopped out, pausing for a moment to look up at the huge dome on the building. I walked through the revolving doors and to the sign-up desk.
“Name?” The lady droned.
“Gracie Nolan.” I smiled, hoping to get something other than a scowl out of her.
“Here’s your papers, make sure you don’t lose them,” she said, shoving a large envelope over at me. “The contest will begin in an hour.”
“Thank you,” I said, almost laughing. It didn’t seem right to laugh at a woman like that, but sometimes I just found humor in weird places.
“The lady’s dressing rooms are down there and to your right,” she said, pointing towards a crowded hallway.
“Thanks,” I said again and walked into the mass of girls waiting to get into the dressing rooms.
“Aren’t you Gracie Nolan?” someone next to me asked. I turned and discovered a girl whom I guessed to be around seventeen.
“Yes, who are you?” I asked, smiling as I shook her outstretched hand.
“Arianna David.” She grinned “I saw you yesterday, you were really good.”
“Obviously not good enough, I lost.” I sighed, though it sounded more dramatic than I meant it to still fit my mood pretty well.
“You’re a lot better than I am. This is my first contest and I got ranked twenty-second.” She said, her shoulders dropped.
“Don’t worry; I got ranked twentieth, so I didn’t do much better than you.” I smiled encouragingly.
“I hope I don’t lose again.” She sighed.
“You know that old saying, ‘If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.”’ I laughed. “It’s not fun sometimes, but it sure does work.”
“But standing back up makes you feel a bit dizzy sometimes.” Arianna sighed and I was sure she meant it both literally and metaphorically.
“Well, good luck!” I said as we got to the dressing rooms.
“Good luck.” She smiled.
I changed into a pale blue, long-sleeved shirt that went far past my waist. I was told I probably lost appeal, because my outfits were not like the other girls. But I liked the way I dressed, and I didn’t see any reason to wear something immodest just to get some more attention.
I tossed my short brown hair into a pony tail and put some hair clips in to keep it out of my face. Then I took a long look at my short figure in the mirror.
“You can do it, Gracie.” I said determinedly. “You’ll be great, even if you don’t win.”
Still unconvinced, I gathered my bag and, after asking directions, went to the seating designated for the competitors. It was a full hour before it started, and then I watched as one after another girl did her routine.
When I saw that I was next I went down to the floor, strapped on my skates and warmed up a bit. Then, before I knew it, I was being called onto the rink. I slid out, making a wide half circle before I stopped in the middle. The judges were in front of me, my competitor behind me and the audience all around me. My heart thumped as I sat for an agonizing moment waiting for the music to begin. Finally, it began. My fear soon melted into determination to get my routine right. With every move I completed I felt more and more confident. Then was the hardest part of the routine, two triple axles in a row. As I went in for the first one I took in a deep breath and bit my lip. The jump, spin and landing, I made it! I went in for the next one feeling reassured – the jump, spin and then thud. I hit the ice, but not with my blade, and I went shoulder first into the guard wall. For a moment all I could think about was how much it hurt, I was pretty sure I had dislocated or broken something. Then I realized I needed to get back up, I could still finish my routine, but it didn’t seem worth it. Then I remembered what Ester had said: “Do your best and leave the rest up to God.” Somehow I managed to summon enough courage and strength to stand up. The whole auditorium was dead silent as I slid back out. As I began spinning the whole crowd started to clap along with the music. I crouched down, extending my arms and one of my legs. Then I straightened up and I brought my leg above my head and held onto the blade. The pain remained just as strong, but it didn’t matter to me, all I could feel was the encouragement of the whole audience. I amazed even myself by only making one more mistake in the routine.
As the music faded out and I slid back to my starting point. I smiled bigger than I ever had. If I won the competition or not didn’t matter to me anymore. I had won a victory I found more important: being able to get back up again, even after apparent defeat.
As I slid out of the rink I thanked God for small victories, because they give us the strength we need to fight the bigger battles.
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