As a girl who grew up in a small Texas town and spent most of her early education in a private school, familiarity has always been something I’ve had. Later on, I switched to public school, and then switched schools again, forcing me to make new friends each time. However, these events didn’t feel too jarring, my school life felt secondary to me back then.
My very first “school” would have actually been the ice rink, which I joined at three years old. As I forged through my school years, I was also waking up at five in the morning every day to train alongside my teammates. Rather than friends, it felt more like family, the difficulty of the sport and the rigorous training pulled us together. Competitive skating is not a team sport, but regardless, we were a team and so much more. Through stressful training days, injuries, daily challenges, I knew I had a community there for me every step of my journey who could empathize and listen to me. That bond got me through the roughest patches of both my skating and academic journey, and something in me just believed that it would always be there.
I always thought growing pains referred to the difficulties in starting to navigate the world as your own person, and finding your own identity without being influenced or brought down by other things. But recently, I discovered that there is another side to growing pains. As my time at the rink flew by, I enjoyed each moment carefree and happy, with a notion in my head that this place, and these people, will always be with me. It slipped my mind that other people are growing too, and they can grow apart. One of my closest friends graduated high school, and retired from skating afterward, quickly becoming busy with new hobbies and experiences. Though at the moment it didn’t feel as strange, I went back to the rink the very next day, and her absence was felt. It was like nothing changed and yet everything changed. Quickly one by one, the people I knew for my entire life disappeared and moved on, and I was still there, gliding on the same ice I’d known for more than a decade.
While this can make someone feel so alone, I think experiences like this, as drastic as they feel, are important. For the longest time, the odd, sinking feeling of walking into the rink without familiar faces greeting me, made its way into my heart as fear. I didn’t feel ready to let go of those moments, those memories that I cherished.
But as time goes by, I’m starting to realize that this is what life is about, and this is what growing up is about. The memories we have and the people who have made a difference will never truly leave us, they play a part in building who we are. As young people, we are meant to grow and change, and these changes, although scary, make us stronger and will help shape our identity.