When my friend and bro Justin invited me to a free skating event at Mars Lakeview Arena, I never thought I would stumble upon an important realization, one that would give me an insight into how failure contributes to success and called me to reflect on some things past, present, and yet to come. Here’s what transpired:
After a busy week laden with the pressures of the day: school, school, and school, and just before another hectic week packed with exams, classes and other scholarly endeavors under my sleeve, I decided to go out of my way and try something out for one. My brother Pascal has this quote which he likes ‘Do not wait for things to happen to you, go out and happen to things’ and I somewhat decided on the logic behind the quote that I might as well give the skating a shot.
In Shona we say ‘Chitaurirwa hunyimwa sembare dzekumusana. Zvaitoda kuzvionera pamhuno sefodya’ – which in English, loosely translates to and means ‘Being told about something is less expressive than seeing it for yourself. You had to see for yourself close at hand to fully appreciate what transpired’ The moment I wore those skates and stepped on the rink, it suddenly hit me that I had perhaps made the worst of all choices to be at this place. The surface was icy and even when I was only one foot on the rink, testing like how one afraid of cold water tests whether the water in the stream is warm enough or not before diving in, I could feel that friction was one thing that did not exist on this surface. This also implied that one tiny wrong move would not only make me lose my balance but also put my perfect set of teeth at risk as well as my ‘extra pair of eyes – glasses’.
I garnered a little confidence and put both feet onto the rink and I have never felt so divorced from my feet and balance as I did that Friday night in the arena. Within a few minutes, I had left the rink and gone to where I had put my extra belongings, given up already. Justin came and somehow managed to persuade me to give it one more try and to ‘trust him’ since he had taught skating before…but to little kids. I am an adult kid, and it’s no secret I lack flexibility.
The good fellow, Justin, got a chair and wanted me to use it as a first step to learn how to skate. All about me, people seemed to float on the rink in a manner that resembled a butterfly floating over a bed of roses – effortless. It felt intimidating. The fact that I had never been on an ice skating rink in all my years gave me a little motivation to want to try it, even with chair, even if I was the only one. Raphael, my other friend who had also never skated before was making steady progress and his determination gave me another extra reason not to throw in the towel. Earlier, we had laughed our lungs out when we discovered we were both going skating for the first time and Justin had invited us both. Raphael wasn’t afraid of falling, he embraced it and saw it as necessary to learn how to skate. He also got inspiration whenever an occasional experienced skater fell and was stupefied how it had happened. All of this also gave me an insight into what’s perhaps is a very important lesson that I have learned so far and interestingly, outside the classroom.
I tried out the chair and Justin made me try skating, while balancing on him (almost ripped out his shoulder I think). Along came, Molly and although we were complete strangers, she helped me, taught me and knocked some of the fear out of me for I was much afraid of falling (and quite thankful I did not fall). Then came Michaela and Lindsey, who both showed me the ropes and worked as a team, motivating me each step of the way, to teach me how to successfully skate even while failing. It started with a few baby strides and by the end of the night I had made almost ten, more or less, supported and unsupported rounds. I remember the words of my friend, host, and mentor, Mark, who always encourages me to embrace learning with an open mind and in so doing, dispel the fear of failing for if one thing doesn’t work, the other might certainly work.
By the time the event ended, I had not only learned how to skate but also how to succeed, one failure at a time, casting away all fear of falling, shame and all the negatives that hinder progress. I also learned that indeed there are complete strangers out there who have big hearts that desire to have other people progress and do well in life. Next time, you meet someone new, don’t be a reason why they give up, be a reason why they are motivated. ‘If we all act like candles and light each other up, the world will be a much brighter and happier place to live in.’