Life Skating

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It was a scene from a Christmas card. 

Skaters glided over the sparkling ice, bundled in coats and hats, cheeks glowing, scarves flapping in the breeze. Although this winter wonderland did not look like a California Christmas, I was actually in San Francisco's Union Square, where an ice rink is installed every holiday season. Round and round the skaters glided, surrounded by Christmas time in the city - festive windows and crowds of shoppers.

Making my shaky way across the ice, I checked out my fellow skaters here in the heart of San Francisco. Young and old, black and white, Asian, Latino, skilled skaters and first timers on skates. I watched as grandparents skated backwards, clutching tiny hands of grandchildren, saw paunchy middle-aged guys remembering long-forgotten hockey moves, young couples skating hand-in-hand with show-off guys laughing at wobbly girlfriends. All of us, skating around and around together. 

Like life, I thought. And, as with life, skating require some resilience. If you fall - and you will - get back up and try again. If you're overwhelmed, stop for a while, take a break, and plan your next move. But push yourself and test your limits, too. Skate as fast as you can, spin as wildly as your legs allow. Most of all, enjoy every single minute of gliding around and around in the circle with all the other people, because faster than you think, the music stops and the circle comes to an end. 

But before it's over, laugh a lot - there is something fundamentally ridiculous about strapping steel blades on your feet and sliding over frozen water, for no reason other than the fun of it. But if you think about it, there is something fundamentally ridiculous about life itself, and it's Christmas, so let your heart be light. Remember, life, just like that skating rink, is temporary. 


The holidays - and the ice-skating rink in Union Square - only come once a year. But, when both are gone and I'm gliding round and round through this new year, I hope I remember how skating was a lot like life  - and enjoy the trip around the rink, slips and falls and all.

With a perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow works for the San Francisco Unified School District.