Getting up from loneliness and isolation through finding community

Amanda McGowan with her silver medal at 2017 US Figure Skating Adult Nationals

I continue my monthly blog series based on US Figure Skating’s popular “Get Up” campaign which shares the message that life, like the ice, is hard, and we can certainly fall on it. But the more times we get up and persevere, the stronger we become.

One thing many people often struggle with is loneliness and isolation. One excellent antidote to loneliness is finding a community of positive and supportive people who share a common interest, and that common interest can be figure skating!

Here is a wonderful story of one of the newer members of the US Adult Figure Skating Community, Amanda McGowan. I met Amanda at the 2017 US Adult Figure Skating Nationals in Wake Forest, NC and she shared her story with me:

“I think I would have retired from skating and just coached if i’d never been to Nationals 2 years ago. Here is my journey ….

“I’m a small town girl from West Virginia, and my entire state has only 2 ice rinks, with mine being the only one open year round. And there were as few as 5 adult skaters counting myself at my rink and that number has actually grown since 2 years ago. I started skating at 18, and lessons at 20.

“The first rink I was at was an hour away from my hometown and I knew no one but I wanted to skate so I went, found my coach, and made friends. When that rink shut down they had just built a rink in my hometown so we all went there. The adults who skated at my rink mostly did shows. But I wanted to go to Adult Nationals from the first time I ever heard of it.

“Professionally and socially outside of the rink, people didn’t know what to think of me because I was the only adult figure skater they knew. But I had a dream and a goal though, so I kept going. When I went to my first Sectionals I knew one other lady from the rink who was from NC who had talked me into all this. That was it. I hadn’t competed in about 10 years and being nervous was an understatement. But winning that first medal ignited something in me.

Amanda with her long time coach and “skating Mom” Heidi Sowards

“At my First Nationals I won a bronze medal and my dream came true, but even more importantly I started meeting people and making friends. I discovered a whole adult community of people just like me. Working adults who were also figure skaters! It’s like being at summer camp but we all have credit cards and access to the fanciest stuff we can find. Everyone is cool here, everyone is accepted. Now after my 3rd Nationals, and some other adult competitions I have a whole slew of friends and I keep finding more.

“Some of the people I’ve met have become my best friends and a skating family of sorts. We live all over the country and only see each other a couple times of year. But if I have a bad day or need a friend they are always a phone call or text message away.

“Skating is how I feel the world. Skating is how I celebrate the good stuff, and deal with the bad stuff. As long as there’s skating it will always be ok.

“As a coach I want to pass that on to my students: enjoy the experience. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the friends you make. This year at nationals when I hit my final pose I had tears in my eyes. One of my friends later told me “you beat yourself. You beat that girl I first met in 2015.” Maybe I did. I have a US Silver Medal to make me smile, but I also have some of the best friends in this world to encourage me and make me excited for next year. That’s worth more than any medal, or amount you pay to participate in all this.”

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Hopefully if you are lonely and isolated, you can find a community to engage with and enjoy, just as Amanda has done with adult figure skating. And perhaps for you too, skating may be just the way to go!

Link to my skating blog and videos page which contains links to my first five “get up” blogs which include getting up from physical issues, career challenges and contemplating or attempting suicide.

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