There are two things I learned today:
- That voice you get in the back of your head that makes sarky comments whenever you’re doing something stupid or ill-advised? Mine sounds like Crowley from Supernatural, and it’s actually fairly worrying. My subconscious is the king of hell. Who’d have thought it?
- My cycling muscles are in nothing like the condition they were in three years ago.
As fascinating as item (1) is, item (2) provides a great deal more opportunity for philosophising on my past, so that’s going to form the rest of this post. Sorry boys.
(Was that Crowley? That sounded like Crowley to me. I heard it in his voice. Then again, I seem to be hearing a lot of things in his voice. They’re really going to lock me up for this one, aren’t they? Those of you who don’t watch Supernatural must be so confused right now, and I do apologise.)
So, my cycling muscles in 2010 were pretty hardy. Most of you haven’t been following my blog long enough to know this, but I used to be an Irish dancer. Don’t worry, I’m cured now. I started in September 2009 and quit in April 2011. Throughout most of 2010, I was cycling a hilly, twenty minute route, taking an intensive dance class that lasted an hour and three quarters, and then cycling the same thing back again. Three times a week. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Oh, and this was generally at night, perhaps half nine or quarter to ten, so I was also cycling in the dark. It was pretty hardcore.
Today, I cycled fifteen minutes to a friend’s house, collapsed, watched four episodes of Supernatural, cycled ten minutes from her house to school, collapsed, lasted an hour and a half’s band rehearsal, and cycled twenty five minutes home. Three years ago, that would have taken me fifteen minutes. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have been so exhausted when I got home that I simply collapsed onto the sofa with a cold drink.
I mean, I know I used to collapse when I got home from Irish dance classes, but hey, that was a lot more intensive than what I did today. (I also wrote 7.6k this morning, but let’s be honest with ourselves: writing may be a mental strain, but physically, it’s not even a walk in the park. It’s like a walk to the kettle to make the tea that fuels it.)
It’s not that I regret having quit Irish dance. I don’t. Okay, so sometimes I miss it, like when I watch videos from the World Championships and think about how I dreamed of one day getting there, but then I look at it logically and I know that that was never going to happen. I started when I was thirteen—the other kids were there at five or six and kept going the whole way through school. I had knee trouble, so my muscles overcompensated, so I got shin splints—it resulted in physiotherapy and a month away from classes. And my parents didn’t want me to compete.
They gave in, though. I nagged at them. Irish dance is, first and foremost, a competitive dance form. It’s a sport more than an art, in many ways. And there are the crazy dresses and the even crazier wigs and the sock glue (which I will defend to the death because that stuff is freakin’ amazing), and they didn’t want anything to do with that. I couldn’t blame them: I wasn’t keen on neon skirts, Swarovski crystals or curled wigs either.
But, after a lot of persuasion, my mum agreed to sew me a dress. A tasteful one. I designed it and she sewed it and that was my Christmas present. Christmas 2010, right? You’re beginning to see where this is going.
I did a competition in February 2011 wearing that dress. No wig: my hair was pulled in a bun on top of my head and we’d made a scrunchie out of leftover fabric. No make-up either: sensitive skin means that’s never been a thing for me. I won two trophies and a couple of medals, and it was great. It was going to be the start of something brilliant—I was going to work my way up to Championships, and then who’d be able to stop me?
Except that you know the end of this story, and you know that I quit less than two months later, having worn the dress once.
So why did I quit? Many reasons, my knees being just one of them. The truth was, I had to decide between ballet and Irish dance. Doing both wasn’t working. I’d only taken up ballet two months prior to that—the end of February, in fact—but I already knew that I was more comfortable in my ballet school than at my Irish dance school, where I felt somewhat excluded and outside of the social groups that existed there, partly because of my age and partly because I joined after everyone became friends.
I also figured I could do more with ballet.
But ballet was 45 minutes a week, going up to an hour and a half from September of that year when I took up pointe work, and cycling there wasn’t necessary. Truth be told, I only started cycling to Irish dance classes when they closed a road in my town and the traffic was too bad for the buses to get there on time. So I stopped cycling. My exercise decreased greatly. What I did do was muscle-based and tiring, but it wasn’t the high-intensity, high-impact sport that Irish dance was.
2010 was pretty much the fittest I’ve ever been in my life. I don’t want to go back there: who would voluntarily choose to be 14 again? It’s not a good time in anybody’s life, and I’m glad I’ve got past it. 14-year-old me was very young. She was naive and easily hurt, as evidenced by the poetry I wrote. She believed in everything, including her own abilities … which didn’t always live up to what she thought they were. She’d never stopped to question—she hadn’t even started figuring herself out, let alone had a crisis and come out the other side completely different (which is not much fun, but I’m glad it happened). She was ignorant and judgemental and only just figuring out the whole writing thing. On the whole, current me is a whole lot more fun.
But I do kind of miss being able just to cycle places without wondering how many times I’ll stop for breath, knowing that I won’t be able to get up the hill until I get some oxygen in me. And I kind of miss a dance form that allowed me to take out all of my anger on the floor, where the aim was to stamp as hard as you possibly could and not to flutter lightly across it like a butterfly. Because, you know, sometimes you need the whole pagan Irish warrior thing that’s going on with synchronised Irish dance drills, rather than the flock of swans you get with barre work at ballet.
I guess I’ll have to start cycling some more.
(As before, captions for the photos are found by hovering over them, as I’ve yet to figure out how to use captions when writing with Windows Live Writer.)