Grace, courage and honesty

It sometimes amazes me how attached we can grow to people we don’t know, just because they’re famous. Only I think in this case–which I’ll get to–it’s not that she’s famous, it’s that her artistry has meant so much to me over the years.

I’m talking about Michelle Kwan and her decision not to continue on the U.S. Olympic team, honoring a commitment not to compete if she couldn’t compete at her best. I’m amazed by that decision, because it’s so clear-eyed. It’s easy, when you really want something, to lie to yourself. So easy, that I can’t blame anyone who does it. Judging by the results, Michelle Kwan didn’t spend any meaningful time trying to tell herself that it wasn’t as bad as she thought it was, that she’d get better, really, that she’d be fine in time. Instead, she faced the reality that, yes, it really is as bad as it seems, and no, she wasn’t going to be all better in time…and that meant she had to make the hard choice and she had to make it right now, to make it right for everyone.

That took courage and strength.

But there’s also her extraordinary grace, grace that’s moved me to tears on more than one occasion. I want to see her skate again. I want to see where she’ll take her art (and, make no mistake, it is art); I want to know what next she’ll say on the ice.

Yes, I’m being selfish, but it’s hard to think that I’ll never see that again. I know it’s not my call to make. I can understand wanting to take your life in a new direction, to find out what else you’re made of. Michelle Kwan has spent most of her life skating, half of it skating at a world-class level. She might be a little tired of it, a little hungry for the next phase of her life. I can’t blame her if she is.

But I’ll miss her if she never skates again.

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