PUBLISHED: 4:46 PM on Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Risk taking a fall to try to learn something new

As days grow shorter and the weather colder, it can be helpful to find activities to stay alert and busy. It could be something with friends, such as organizing a scrapbooking group or cooking night, or an activity such as recreational sports or a class. Several clubs and organizations across Southeast offer a variety of opportunities. You could discover a talent within yourself you never realized.

Clumsy and curious have always been appropriate words to describe me. At 9 I was racing with a friend through a gravel patch when the bike started to skid, throwing me off the front of the bike. I wasn't wearing a helmet and was lucky to not have hit my head on the fire hydrant only a few inches from my landing. However, I did not escape injury all together. I got up and walked away from the scene with two broken arms. It was a long summer of wearing a pink cast on each. It didn't keep me from doing the things I enjoyed though, as at the end of the summer I used the "get well" money I had received to by a new "grown-up" bicycle.

When I try new things, I know that my clumsy side might just get the best of me. So, last spring I played it safe and took a sign language class. It was with this knowledge in mind that my family attempted to talk me out of taking ice skating lessons this fall. Growing up in rural Oklahoma, there was never an opportunity to learn to ice skate although I badly wanted to master it. I settled for a chance on the ice when I could - at the few hockey rinks in the area or at Rockefeller Center in New York City, which features a staff just to pick up skaters when they fall.

I'm always trying to keep learning a new skill or topic. I once interviewed a college instructor who made that his life mission when a co-worker once professed to know everything he ever needed to know. The instructor I was interviewing had went on to learn to sail, ride motorcycles, build a violin and make his own airplane, which he flew in with his wife across the country. I thought I would seize the opportunity of having a rink in town and learn something I had always wanted to know how to do.

I called home and told my mom, who told my dad and brother, who made jokes about my clumsy ways. I didn't care. They knew there was nothing they could say that would stop me because, as my family says, "once Amanda makes up her mind, it's already a done deal."

So a few weeks ago, I went to my first class. The first thing the instructor taught my beginners class was how to properly fall - to the side to avoid injury.

This was great knowledge to me, who wanted to avoid at all costs using my wrists to break my fall. I was a little unsteady on the ice, but felt comfortable enough to practice my new moves during the practice period. I knew I wasn't ever going to be a Michelle Kwan, but at least I was upright and moving forward.

The second class went well - learning how to glide on one foot and skate backward - both tasks that I'm very slow at but would at least try.

I had at least felt better about general skating. It was in those that 10 seconds of practice time that I felt a little too comfortable and took a quick fall - not implementing my new falling skills - and landed on my backside.

I called my mom that evening, which was not terribly surprised about my accident, but was concerned about my health.

told her I would feel fine in a couple of days and not to worry. A couple of days came and went, and I was in more pain than ever.

On the request of caring family and friends, I made a doctor's appointment and learned what I already knew - I had broken my tailbone and there was nothing to do but wait for it to heal.

My mom asked if I was going to go back to my ice skating class. I told her that I most certainly was.

I'll skip my next lesson to heal up a bit, but then it's back on the ice for me.

I encourage you to try something new - take a class or learn a new skill. There are an array of offerings and possibility across Southeast Alaska. It can seem overwhelming at first, but no matter the outcome the stories are usually worth telling. I would rather have an amusing story to tell rather than wonder what might have been if I hadn't tried something. Life happens, and it's too short to waste opportunities because of what might have been.

Gragert is the editor of Capital City Weekly, and willing to try something new and meet people. She can be contacted by e-mail at