The Impossible Quad

By now, I hope everybody has seen a video of skater Ilia Malinin’s world champion figure skating routineThis guy is nineteen years old, he ended up being last in the order of go, and he has fallen in competition more times than I can count. He’s also the only skater thus far to do all six competitive skating jumps as quadruples. He’s breaking records and doing what was previously considered “impossible.”  Long and happily may he skate!

Roger Bannister did what was was considered impossible when, in the middle of his med school studies, he ran a mile in less than four minutes.

Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay and New Zealander Sir Edmund Hilary did the impossible when, as part of the ninth British expedition to make the attempt, they summited Mount Everest.

Since Bannister ran his mile, 1755 other athletes have done the impossible. In fact, Bannister’s 1954 record stood for just 46 days, though attempts to break the four-minute barrier had been going on for decades. As for Mt. Everest, more than 6500 people have seen the view from the top of the world since 1953, many of them more than once.

When I watch Malinin toss off those successive quad jumps, I want to whoop and stomp and applaud. How does he dooooo that? (He used the pandemic to practice is part of the answer, and it doesn’t hurt that his mom was an international skating super star.) Even so, some part of this guy decided that the impossible was achievable, and I promise you, quad jumps will find their way into more programs in years to come.

A broken barrier is an inspiration, for better or for worse. I’ve only broken one memorable barrier (so far), and that was when I was in eighth grade. I’d taken a year of home economics in seventh grade because it was “mandatory.” A semester of sewing, a semester of cooking. I already knew how to bake brownies, and I could stitch up a split seam. I did not consider that the first year of home ec had any value, and I wasn’t about to endure a second.

Fifty years ago, girls did not take shop, but I signed up for shop anyway. That meant some woodworking, some metal working, and some power mechanics (taking apart lawn mower engines). I learned A LOT from those shop teachers, I learned something about male spaces, and I learned that sometimes, you can create options just by being a little insistent.

That one experience led me to take a class load in eleventh grade that had no lunch. My mom shrugged. The principal was utterly nonplussed. In college I could not decide The Dreadful Duke by Grace Burrowesbetween music history and pre-law so I obtained degrees in both. I played both jazz and classical piano. I studied both Spanish and Latin in high school. Making one choice at age thirteen to color outside the prescribed lines led to other choices, and I am richer for having gone astray.

Have you seen any impossible dreams come true? Colored outside any lines? Are there any rules you wish you would have broken? It’s time once again for ye old e-ARC list. The Dreadful Dukefirst of the Bad Heir Day Tales, will be published in a very few weeks, so email me at [email protected] is you’d like a copy.




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10 comments on “The Impossible Quad

  1. I also made my own Home Economics experience. Junior high girls were supposed to take half a year of sewing and half a year of cooking. I was (and still am) definitely interested in sewing but disliked (then and still now) cooking. So I told somebody (the teacher, the administration? It’s too many years ago to remember) that I had no interest in cooking and probably never would (I knew myself) and asked to take the second half year of sewing. I did agree to make a more complicated project (it was a fully lined bolero jacket to match the dress I’d made in the first half) and so I got permission. Then, when I was a freshman in college, living in a female’s dorm that shared the dining rooms with the male’s dorm, I got the dress code changed. This was in central Michigan so in the winter, I’d spend my days in jeans, rush back to my room to don a lined navy skirt just to be able to eat in the dining room. I pointed out that the men did not have to do anything so ridiculous as “dress for dinner” and by the end of my freshman year, they agreed to get rid of that archaic rule. Admittedly, many of your younger readers are probably wondering what dark ages I am talking about. It was the 1950s for junior high and the late 1960s for college. (As an aside, these experiences, including yours with Shop, are what bother me so much when a younger person says “OK Boomer” with a derogatory sneer. They seem not to realize that much of their normal environment was changed by those of us in the Baby Boomer generation making a fuss over stupid rules. I’m not saying we didn’t get some things wrong but we did do some things right–as every generation does.)
    The one rule I wish I had broken was when I attempted to sign up for a Computer class as a sophomore but was denied because in those days, being an Engineering major was the requirement and I was of a Liberal Arts major. When my friends found out, they discouraged me from making a fuss since I probably didn’t want to be around “those people” (you know, male nerds). The funny thing is that when I finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up, I went back to school to get a Master’s degree in Computer Science and worked in the field for the next 25 years until I retired. And that’s the “impossible dream” that came true for me.

    • What did I say? It was the early 1960s for Junior High! I’m thinking I should type my response, put it aside for at least 30 minutes, and then re-read before posting!

  2. Yep, I achieved something that was very, very hard for females to be allowed to do, and it felt kick ass to beat the boys at something they thought of as their own game. Innate talent mixed with dogged (read: bullheaded!) determination to “show them” made it possible. Hubby and I were just talking about this this morning, actually. What a timely writing prompt, Grace!

  3. Pingback: A Gentleman Fallen on Good Times!!! | Grace Burrowes | I believe in love.

  4. One “norm” I didn’t have the courage to break was when I was maybe 12 or so. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered “a Doctor.” I was informed, ever so politely, that a career in medicine was only open to me if I became a nurse. Uninterested in a life of bedpans and taking orders from doctors, I gave up that dream. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing in my life. I love how my life has turned out. Had I pursued my dream job, I’d never have met my amazing husband, nor given birth to two terrific people, or been lucky enough to be Nana to a couple of incredible grandkids. So, no regrets, but, at the time, I was devastated. I am happy that the world has opened up such that my 11 year old granddaughter will be able to pursue whatever dream she wants to (although some in government want to take those rights away, I don’t see us giving them up willingly!). Stay safe. Stay well everyone

  5. I’ve been loving the drama of the women’s basketball tournament and all of the impossible feats that Caitlyn Clark of Iowa (our daughter’s alma mater) has done this season. And then getting to observe the seemingly impossible feat of one of my highly gifted students on the autism spectrum who couldn’t last a day in school 18 mo ago revising and editing an essay this week. Impossible can just be an expectation…

  6. Oh yes, home ec. I liked the baking and the sewing, but the rest was such an imposition. At home, my siblings and I already did the vacuuming and dusting and cleaning, and we all still hate it. I’d always wished I could take shop, but I was far too non-confrontational and shy to try. This was in the ’60s.

    My step-father raced stock cars, and did his own mechanical work. The yard was full of engine blocks, pistons and rings, rear ends, transmissions, axles, suspension parts. The garage contained welding equipment and metal for repairing frames. My mother was the mechanic’s helper. I thought about being a mechanic, and did my own (minor) repairs, but the thought of rough and greasy hands, cold concrete floors, barked knuckles, and loud cussing was a deterrent. Not to mention the male culture of it.

    I did go into medical laboratory technology, a career where I could use my hands, my brain, and satisfy the need to serve. I am retired now, but really miss these aspects of the job. Curiously, this has long been a female-dominated profession.

    I had already seen that young man’s triumphant video performance. I’m glad you mentioned it, so others who may not have been aware can appreciate it.

  7. Yeah… I got married to a wonderful man my family still all, 38 years on, feel sorry for. Have two independent children no one thought were possible. I never knew where the lines were and my age mates were usually kind. The least I can do is try to pass it along.

  8. When I was in high school (in the early 1960s), I learned that I could speak up and change things. I had always been a strictly by the rules, follow the leader person.
    I was “ahead of schedule” due to having taken a number of AP classes. Math was my nemesis and I was suffering in Advanced Algebra and we were starting on imaginary numbers after finishing permutations and combinations when I said to myself, ENOUGH! I went to my guidance counselor and said that I was dropping that class and could I please join the Ceramics class. The answer was Yes. Wow!
    I enjoyed that and began to lobby for a “Practical Sewing Class”. I really wanted to learn to sew and in my junior high Home Ec all we got to make was one small apron. The Sewing teacher was very enthusiastic about this idea. She envisioned us costuming the annual musical, “Kiss Me Kate” that year. We did that and had a great variety of students with many different goals and backgrounds including one guy. (That also was a “first” back then) We could choose whatever we wanted to learn to sew. We would pick from lists of “ingredients” in order to make sure that we learned a variety of skills. A variety of styles, fabrics, finishes, collars, sleeves, pockets, etc. We bought our own patterns and fabrics, consulting with the teacher about what would work. I met students who I never would have met had I stayed in my “track.”
    Being successful in that way, I believe changed my life for the better, and gave me more confidence than all the “good grades” in the world ever would.

  9. I remember making an apron with pockets but don’t know if it was school related or not. I did like making doll clothes (or trying to make doll clothes).

    When I went to college, I majored in math (since I didn’t have to write research papers for math). I discovered all I could do with it was teach, so I went back and got a degree in computer science.

    This is not exactly breaking any rules – obviously, I followed the rules – but if I had it all to do over again, I would have gotten a doctorate in paleontology, taught college classes, and taken my students out on fossil trips. It was my passion at the time but it never occurred to me to pursue it. I’ll never forget the first fossil I found: it was part of a trilobite. I looked at the world with new eyes.

    In my late forties, early fifties, I did join a paleontoogist group and went on day expeditions with them for several years until my knees gave out. I took my son with me but he didn’t catch the bug.