Every fiber of my petite frame stood defiantly on the ice, one hand on one hip, my ice skate blades facing slightly out like I was practicing first position.
My 7-year-old self glared up at my considerably older, wiser, and much, MUCH taller figure skating instructor and simply said: "I just do not see the point of this."
"Try it," my instructor said. "It's a skill that must be mastered."
While all of my friends stood on their skates and figured out a way to trip themselves on purpose, I shuffled over to the boards and pouted, jamming my toe picks into the ice as if I were kicking dirt in the outfield of a baseball diamond.
I did not want to learn how to fall.
It looked stupid.
It looked dangerous.
And it looked like the opposite of what I wanted to with the shiny, sharp blades on my feet (jump!).
My instructor smiled at me pouting in the corner and told me, "Elizabeth, once you learn to fall, everything else is easier. It doesn't make sense, but that's how it works."
The group lesson ended with me skating off the ice having NOT mastered falling and NOT attempting to master falling.
For two solid weeks, I made it a point during lessons to NOT fall -- be it by accident or on purpose. I had been skating since I was 2, you see. My mother had me out on the ice with her before I could walk. I did not need to learn how to fall. I already knew my inside edges from my outside ones and what they did. I could skate backwards, and I was the BEST stopper in the class (I even made little ice chunks fly up from the ice like I had watched the hockey boys do in lessons before me).
The truth was, I was scared.
Falling didn't bother me, I had done it plenty of times since I am about as graceful as a water buffalo on a trapeze.
No, what scared me was looking like a fool in front of the other kids in my skating lesson; you know, the ones who weren't as good at skating as I was. Skating was MY thing. The thing I was really good at compared to everyone else. I had never had THAT THING before.
And I didn't want to have some lesson on falling ruin that.
One day I got to skating practice early with my mother. All the kids in my class were busy out in the lobby drinking hot chocolate, but I always liked to go in and watch the boys pass the puck around the ice.
One of the boys (whose sister I knew from my skating class) called to me and asked if I knew how to shoot. I shook my head yes and he skated over to me and gave me a stick that was far too big for me.
I had shot on net before, sure. But never with a goalie actually IN the net DEFENDING it. Course, the boys did not need to know that so, I skated out onto the ice and stood at the top of the circle in front of the net. I wound up, leaned and, swung and shot.
I missed. By a lot.
The boys told me my toe picks got in the way, half giggling at me, but I knew they were just being nice because their coach was watching.
As I sheepishly skated off the ice, my instructor came up to me. She had watched the whole thing.
"If you can do that," she said, "then you can fall in my class."
"Why?" I asked her. "Shooting is NOT falling."
"Yes, it is. You knew it'd be worse if you didn't try to take that shot," she said.
Some days, I feel like I'm still out there on the ice learning to fall.
Over and over again.