As I was approaching my 35th birthday, I happened to be exposed to a few videos on YouTube featuring skateboarders. For some reason, this seemed to stir something within me. When I was younger (much younger), I used to own a skateboard. I hesitate to describe myself as a skater because to me that would imply the possession of some talent when using the skateboard, which I had very little of. That didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it though. Looking back on it now, I recognize one of the biggest limitations to my ability to develop any skill was my tendency to quit before I had started, owing to my ADHD, depression, and anxiety.
However, now as an adult, with my ADHD more or less under control and the financial ability to be able to purchase a skateboard (why does being a counterculture rebel and sticking it to the man have to be so expensive?), the idea began to grow within my mind that I could get good at it. At first, I felt sheepish to admit that I wanted to start skateboarding at the age of 35 but then I put things in a social and historical context. It was not unheard of at any point in history for people to develop a love of something, whether it be a hobby or sport, in childhood and persist in that love throughout life. As our society and culture changes and evolves, things that used to be thought of as only for kids have traveled into adulthood with the kids who were first exposed to them. In other words, if kids were exposed to video games for the first time in our culture in the 70s and 80s and developed a love for video games, it is not surprising that those kids, now grown adults, would continue with an interest in videogames, although (hopefully) a more tempered interest due to other obligations. At least this is how I justified it to myself.
I talked to my wife about it and she shook her head. She didn’t do this out of disapproval but sympathy and disbelief. I mentioned it to a few friends including my coworkers. Most of them were encouraging. One colleague told me that she had a friend who was a manager at a local skateboard shop and could get me complete set-up for a huge discount. I was quite excited about this prospect. Whether she intended to be wise or it was just a coincidence, however, prior to my going to the skateboard shop and spending my money, she brought a skateboard in that she had found in her garage. She said that it had belonged to her husband but he had not used it in a long time and told her that he didn’t mind if she gave it to me to try it out.
She brought it to me at work and I was overjoyed to get it. I immediately put it down on the ground in my colleagues office and tried an ollie. To my shock, though moreso to the shock of others, I was actually able to do it. Granted, I was standing still and I was on the carpet, but still, I could ollie after all these years. I could not wait to get home and try out my new toy.
When I got home, I immediately got out of my truck, put the skateboard down on the ground, and gave it a mighty push, expecting to sail off the end of the driveway while ollying the curb.
Instead, I received an abrupt and brutal reminder of the importance of sweeping any surface where you plan to skate ahead of time. Small bits of gravel jammed the wheels of the skateboard and I went flying forward unexpectedly and without any shred of dignity. I landed hard on the driveway. In my wrist, I felt a shooting pain. I had to laugh at myself, I suppose, but I was caught up in the moment of feeling like a kid again. I tried to shake off the pain, literally shaking my wrist, but it didn’t seem to help. I have been injured many times in my life. Many, many, many times. I have never broken a bone however, so I knew that it would only take a matter of time before I felt pain-free again in my wrist and so decided to ignore the message my body was trying to tell me. Instead, I got the broom and swept the driveway.
Just then my wife arrived home with the kids after school. They were more than a little confused to see their father, a grown man, trying to skateboard on the driveway. My wife, God bless her, said nothing discouraging. She must’ve had a vision of what was to come.
I fell a few more times on the hard drive way or the concrete steps leading up to my front door. The more that happened, the less I laughed. In fact, along with my ability to ollie, I discovered a few verbal fossils from that time in my life as well. Colorful fossils. Descriptive fossils.
Finally, as I attempted to ollie a momentous obstacle, which was in fact a crack in the driveway, I landed with a noise that was louder than it should have been. As I looked down at the skateboard, I noticed that it was neatly severed into two sections with the dividing line occurring directly where my weight had borne down on the pitiful plank. As it turns out, not only had I lost a degree of coordination and skill, I had gained 70 pounds. I don’t think cheap skateboards from Walmart are designed to hold someone of my… experience.
Understandably, this brought my nascent skateboarding resurgence to a grinding halt. However, I began to laugh at this as well, writing it off as a cheap skateboard and explaining to my patient wife that if I spent money on a real quality skateboard it would be less likely to crumble beneath me. To her credit, she did not try to talk me out of it.
I went back to work the next day and told the story to my colleagues who laughed with (and maybe at) me. I told them my plan and they, like my wife, did not try to talk me out of it.
However, as the week wore on so did the soreness in my wrist. It looked like I wasn’t going to be able to just shake this one off. While it wasn’t broken, it was very sore for some time. As that time became more and more elongated, I began to think more seriously about how my body would be able to hold up to such falls in the future. When you are learning to skateboard and even when you know what you’re doing, falling is a part of skating. My body’s slowness to heal seem to be sending me a message.
What made the message difficult to hear, however, was my pride. I had told everyone of my great plan. They had supported me. It seemed that it was a great plan on paper. The setbacks that I had experienced were understandable in retrospect, even predictable. However, the pain in my wrist would not go away. The more the pain lingered the more clearly I saw the writing on the wall. In the end, I had to face the fact that I was no longer 16 years old, that my body was not made of wire as it used to be, and that I had better ways to spend time as a father of five children than cursing and skateboarding.
This experience taught me many things. I learned about the patient and nonjudgmental support of my wife and friends and how effective that was in helping me find my own answer. I learned the importance of wading into a plan instead of leaping, with both feet, off the dock. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, I learned that no matter how good the plan is on paper, don’t be afraid to change it if it’s just not working out. I could have persisted and been dedicated and maybe had one of the greatest stories ever to be featured on the YouTube homepage. Imagine the headline, “Fat Guy Resumes Skating and Becomes Professional. However, the time and place in my life would not allow for such a gamble. I had to be realistic when looking at the evidence that had been presented to me. There is no shame in that. There is, however, freedom in being able to say, I was wrong.