Someone posted this on Facebook today, and rather than write a lengthy post reply, I figured I’d take up this topic here. Plus, if I cut out one more piece of skating dress fabric tonight I might go insane…
Many of you know my skater/daughter has won or placed at nationals more times than I can remember; she even brought home a medal from the World Championships in 2017. But one of the most satisfying placements she ever earned was a 19th place finish (out of only 23 skaters, mind you) at nationals in 2009. Let me explain.
Emma is a figure skater now, but when she was little she also competed in dance and freestyle. She placed at regionals in freestyle (and in our region in 2009, that was a pretty significant accomplishment in itself), and competed at nationals in freestyle a couple years. One year she decided to try dance, which, if you know Emma, is hilarious, but I figured what the heck — and to everyone’s surprise, she placed at regionals. In our club, if you place at regionals, you must compete at nationals, because you took a spot away from someone else who is staying at home. But considering the fact that I’d been to nationals many times, and I knew Emma basically sucked at dance, I decided to help her set a few goals specifically for dance, one of which was beating just three other skaters…just three, no more. And off to nationals we went.
So Emma skated her very best in that dance event (one goal met), she didn’t get run off the floor or intimidated in the least by the much bigger and stronger skaters (two goals met), and she made some people smile while doing it (three goals met — by the way, please ask her to show you her opening steps sometime…it’s worth a giggle or two). Finally the results were posted; we scanned the list, and believe it or not she DID beat three people! We were ecstatic — hugging, screeching, high-fiving, generally acting like idiots. Then a well-meaning but rather nosy woman turned to me and said softly, “Ummm, you know, she only got 19th, right?” as though I had read the score sheet incorrectly, as though I thought she made finals or something. I turned to her as Emma yelled…and I mean, really, really YELLED…across the lobby to her brother, “I GOT 19TH!” and jumped in the air a couple of times. I responded to the woman with a simple, “Yep, we know! Isn’t that great?!” and left her dumbfounded as to why anyone would celebrate such a crappy placement.
Later that week Emma won two national titles in figures and loops. But our best memories of that year are all definitely focused on that silly 19th place dance finish.
Why is this important today? Because as we get ready to go to the World Championships again, I am reminded of a rather ridiculous attempted shaming we received last year when we expressed our dismay at her 4th place finish at worlds. Some people, people who really had no idea what else went on and why exactly that 4th place was such a disappointment, people who had no business expressing an opinion and who really mean nothing to us, people who weren’t even at worlds and to this day have no clue about what really happened that day, in that auditorium, on that floor, and why that disappointment was wholly justified, decided that it would be fun to attempt a public scolding. It didn’t work, and actually backfired because it exposed a degree of ignorance others had as yet not seen, but the act itself reiterated to me and to the rest of the figure skaters and coaches involved in that entire situation at worlds that perspective is more important than outcome in victory and defeat.
To a very tiny and really lousy dance skater, that 19th place finish was a huge accomplishment. But to someone in Emma’s position last year, with all the dynamics and persons involved that I won’t go into here, yes, you haters, 4th place really was a defeat, in more ways than you will ever comprehend, because that’s our perspective. The only perspective that matters is the perspective of those involved; your perspective is irrelevant. Just like the only perspective that mattered in 2009 was Emma’s and mine, not the lady whose perspective led her to believe I should have lectured her for such a low placement.
We’ve dealt with our share of haters over the years, and dealing with them has been a very powerful, maturing experience for Emma. Some of her most fervent haters became friends; some have slipped away in sheepish silence, and some are forefront and quite vocal even today. But their perspectives will never matter to that 8-year old dancer in the purple sparkly dress, regardless of how hard they may continue to try.