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Jonathan Van Ness arrives at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)
Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP
Renaissance man.
CAN YOU BELIEVE?

What a “Queer Eye” star’s Instagram posts taught me about prioritizing personal goals

By Stevie Borrello

I struggle with following through on goals. In the past few years, I’ve tried writing a short film, training for a marathon, doing yoga consistently, getting a personal essay published, even just jotting down a few thoughts in my journal each day, but each time I fail to follow through. So when I saw Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness posting videos about his progress in learning to figure skate, I was immediately sucked in.

Fans of Van Ness wouldn’t be surprised to learn of his passion project. On Queer Eye, the hairdresser-turned-Netflix-series-phenomenon regularly references his skating idols, like Michelle Kwan. His beauty routine is inspired by figure skaters. The obsession with skating goes so far back that he even performed an off-ice routine at his sixth-grade talent show.

Basically, it was only a matter of time before he made it onto the ice. But I didn’t expect the transformation that was to come.

In late November, Van Ness started sharing footage from his training sessions at the rink with pro-skater Eliot Halverson. It started with an eager Van Ness shakily practicing some basic skills on the ice.

A few posts in, Van Ness was skating confidently on the ice, able to gracefully do minor footwork around the rink and attempt some spins that usually ended in flops. I’d be on my commute, excited whenever he’d post a new video, hoping it would be the day he successfully completed a spin. Those videos brightened my congested subway rides, not only because I saw someone showing real progress with something they’d set their mind to, but because I saw the joy it brings to do something purely for one’s own happiness.

To see Van Ness finally able to complete a spin—on one foot—and go on to do a routine, all within a month’s time, was inspiring to me—especially as the responsibilities of work, running errands like grocery shopping, doing basic apartment upkeep, and, if I’m lucky, having enough time to prep meals each week, crowd out any thoughts of committing to a long-term goal or dream.

This feeling of overwhelming exhaustion has been noted by others, with some believing that it’s an entire generation of adults getting burned out (or several). Maybe we worry about taking care of life’s necessities, or get discouraged after missing a few training sessions, or just fail to make time for our passion project after an initial burst of enthusiasm. Or maybe we just don’t put our self-worth at the center of our concerns.

As a New Yorker, I thrive on the hustle—the busier I am the better. If I feel I am using my time to propel my work or opportunities, then my mind tells me it’s worth the long days and limited sleep.

But when it’s a screenplay I want to write for myself, the goal is easily pushed aside. It becomes an afterthought, something I’ll do when I have enough time (which will be never, until I prioritize my enjoyment of life better).

I think that’s why watching Van Ness’s posts make me so happy. I am seeing someone put a personal passion front and center in his life, and he’s getting really good at it.

Of course, when you have a professional training you and you’re on the ice roughly four times a week, perhaps with assistants managing your schedule, that will likely speed up your progress. But there is still a good amount of dedication that needs to take place just to get to that point.

Van Ness decided he wanted to finally make skating a priority. Wherever he travels, he finds a rink where he can train, even if the place is so small that he can get from one side of the rink to the other in a few strides. He even found time to skate in Japan while filming episodes for Queer Eye.

Van Ness has been doing jumps in his most recent videos. They’re still a little rough—he wobbles a little to steady his balance.

But in a few months time, he’s almost gotten to a point where he could skate a low-level competition routine if he wanted to. On top of that, he’s pursuing another passion, practicing gymnastics.

A month ago, I started writing again, just for myself, working on that personal essay I always wanted to get published. Maybe I’ll revisit my screenplay next. If so, I’ll know who to thank for the inspiration.