At one time, compulsory (or “school”) figures were a required element of competitive figure skating, so much so that the precise lines etched into the ice by thin metal blades, and analyzed with magnifying glasses by well-bundled judges, were not only worth 60% of a skater's total score, but also gave the sport it's name.
I thought about these ice tracings, the perfect circles and figure eights that are no longer required, as we drove to my HR appointment today, to fill out a seemingly endless stack of forms for my new job (with more form-filling and fingerprinting taking place tomorrow afternoon). Above me, the sky was icy silver, metallic grey, and powdery blue, blended as with one of those little rakes used in desktop Zen gardens. The strokes across the sky were so evenly spaced, to delicately formed, that I decided they must be a cosmic form of school figures, left for the human eye to examine, and leading to a peaceful place within the human soul.
Later, as I was signing my name for at least the seventy-fifth time, I decided that these forms were my personal school figures, that each one represented a fine line etched into the ice of of my professional life. I don't believe any company needs five different information security agreements any more than I believe being able to skate a perfect figure eight makes a skater any more artistic, but I accept the requirement, and by casting it in a framework of something I enjoy – though, admittedly, I'm a watcher when it comes to skating, and my own skates lie dusty and unused at the top of the hall closet – it became bearable. Suddenly, I found pleasure in the lines and loops of my signature, intead of mere tedium.
On the way home, as icy sleet formed a sizzling curtain around the car, I was unable to see the patterns in the sky, but I traced them in my head, and realized that even though I'm already feeling trapped by a job I haven't even started, it's not a feeling that will last forever.
After all, school figures aren't even taught to figure skaters, anymore.