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Anna Van Tol: 'We are better together in all kinds of ways, especially when it comes to creating lasting memories of joy.'

COURTESY PHOTO - A young skater shows off her moves at the Sherwood Ice Arena.My name is Anna, I'm a multimedia artist, and I had the pleasure of living in wild Sherwood, Oregon, in the 1980s.

It was here that I learned to ride my bike, build forts, see hot-air balloons land, and catch snakes. I also had one of the most important teachers of my life, Mr. Smith in first grade. He reminded me daily of my smile. I seem to always have a smile to share at any given moment.

What led me to write this commentary is the fact that since the pandemic arrived in 2020, we have all been isolated and longing for places to gather together, share our joy, and create memories we love. In the past three weeks of my life, I have heard dozens of stories over the phone and in person from people living and really trying to live lives they love.

Greatness does not happen all at once. It's a process of intentions practiced again and again and again. We have come to a place in history that is shared by all humans on our planet, just the same, no matter who you are, or where you are.

All living beings are creatures of repetitive expression and growth. It is natural for all living animals and mammals to create games that create resiliency and teach co-operation — it's fun and positively moves life forward.

Ice skating was invented in 1850 BCE, and back then, people loved the motion and movement they created on the ice with tools (bones or wood made the blade) strapped to their feet. What fun!

How brave each person is on the ice while dancing, running, and moving with their feet attached to a blade. The joy of moving forward and upward bravely, by one's own choice, will, and action.

When I was a kid, the creeks surrounded by trees were the cool places I went. Now, as a grown woman, I am in many cool places that truly brave people gather. One of these places is the Sherwood Ice Arena.

I've met an 80-year-old woman who looks 60 and has skated for decades, and kids who can leap and twirl through the air. There are also coaches that have been skating all their lives, teaching kids how to dance or hit a puck and make a goal on ice. Together, they share time learning and becoming something better than they were before their practice.

Each and every practice matters and makes us better. That's what I'm learning from people who play on the ice, whether dance, hockey or just laps together.

It's together we learn new ways and new ideas about our lives, living the best one possible. Of course, we all have the ability to learn and grow independently, but as entrepreneur Reid Hoffman said, "No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you're playing a solo game, you'll always lose out to a team."

We are better together in all kinds of ways, especially when it comes to creating lasting memories of joy.

Learning new ways to move your body in new places creates a resiliency that leads to better well being. Finding places that bring people together to experience health and joy while making new memories has been made more important since the pandemic of 2020. Life truly is a gift.

Coaches working in the Sherwood Ice Arena share a passion for the joy that ice skating brings them, and seeing their students grow their skating skills. Additionally, students share relationships that last for years.

By surrounding yourself with people who want to see you positively grow, you are leading your life to more joy. I hope reading this commentary inspires you to try a new physical hobby that connects you to people who make you feel like trying your best and filled with pure joy. May you have a life you love and live intentionally.

Anna Van Tol is a multimedia artist and writer. She lives in Portland.

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