When I was in 6th grade I babysat for these kids who didn’t have a TV, they just had books for “entertainment.” I despised babysitting them because I really liked watching TV and it was super boring at their house. One night after I had put the kids to bed, I found a Disney magazine on the table and while I desperately thumbed through it, searching for something interesting to take my mind off of the depressing fact that there was no TV in the house, I came across an article about the professional skateboarder, Willy Santos.
His cool demeanor and baggy jeans really inspired me to reinvent myself at 11 years old. I vowed to find the baggiest pants I could get my hands on and wear the shit out of them. Then I vowed to become a skateboarder because I thought it seemed really rebellious and I wanted to impress girls.
I had these black and blue checkered pants that were like weird pajama bottoms, but they were regular pants. I took scissors to them the next day and turned them into baggy “skateboarder” shorts. Then I froze my ass off waiting for the bus to take me to school. It was still winter and I was hellbent on looking cool.
Shortly thereafter I purchased my first skateboard and no material thing before or since has ever meant so much to me. From the wheels to the grip tape, I was head over heels in love. I also had no real clue what to do with it, so I bought “How to Skateboard” VHS tapes (this was the 90’s) and taught myself how to ollie and kick flip.
If you’ve ever ridden a skateboard, you know how difficult it is to maintain your balance and not crack your skull open. The majority of scars on my body are from skateboarding falls.
One night I was skateboarding home with my best friend in the pouring rain, we were skating fast because we were awesome. All of a sudden the wet pavement decided to humble me, and I flew off of my board and splattered my shit all over the unforgiving street. The wind was knocked out of me and I struggled to catch my breath, plus I could feel blood trickling down my elbow and I was in ice cream headache kind of pain. I got up and hobbled the rest of the way home.
One day while skateboarding at the mall, my pedaling foot slipped, I lost my balance and the foot that was on the board kept going. The momentum of the board moving forward put me into the “splits” position and drug my back leg across the pavement, grating my knee like cheddar cheese.
I would oftentimes find empty parking lots to practice in so I was free to look like an idiot in private. One such parking lot practice session resulted in experiencing my first “popsicle.” This is when you pop the board up for a trick and the board doesn’t spin like it’s supposed to (because you suck), and instead it stays upright. Meanwhile, your legs are spread and gravity is bringing you right down on it in the most perfect timing possible, and the result is you looking like a human popsicle with your skateboard lodged in your crotch. You don’t know pain until you’ve got a skateboard jammed up your ass. I crumpled to the ground and rocked back and forth for a good 20 minutes until I dragging myself home, feeling mildly defeated.
Most times I would fall again on the same elbow or knee before the previous injuries had time to heal, so my body was usually covered in scabs.
I remember once after a fall where my elbow flesh had been severely removed, I went to the movies and as I dropped down in the theater seat, my left elbow hit the armrest and removed the scab that had formed from the previous week’s wreck. The arm of my sweatshirt proceeded to fill with blood for two hours because I was too embarrassed to get up and clean it up the bathroom. I didn’t want anyone to know about my falling problems. Plus, I thought “what would Willy Santos do?” Fuck it.
What did I learn from all of this?
I learned how to fall and then get back up and keep going. In fact, one of the first videos I ever watched about skateboarding taught me how to fall “correctly.” Literally the first half of the video was about falling down and how important it is to learn that first before any fancy tricks. There is a way to do it so your brain is prepared and you can brace for impact. The trouble is you have to keep falling to learn how to fall less and become better at staying on your board.
I don’t fall anymore.
I can’t remember the last time I had a scab on my body. There’s something really empowering about seeing crusted blood and puss on your skin as the result of doing something badass. Scabs = learning. I wanted to ride my skateboard so bad that I gratefully collected scabs. Bring on the scabs! Day after day I would fall down and get back up. I would glance at the injured body part post-fall, and then skate on without a second thought.
Now I google every ache and pain and, and buy bandaids and Neosporin. As soon as I get a hangnail, you better believe I’m putting a bandaid on that shit.
What does all of this mean?
It means I’ve grown complacent and negative experiences have instilled a little fear in me. That’s what I think it means anyway, you can interpret in anyway you like. I feel like there should never be a reason to stop falling down.
What is the point of living if you’re going to stop trying new things? You have to fall to learn and grow. Maybe you don’t have to fall off of a skateboard, but you have to make mistakes in some way. You have to feel uncomfortable and feel pain. And that’s a very good thing.
When is the last time you put yourself in a situation where you learned something new? Ask yourself that question right now. If the answer is “not in a long time,” then I DARE you to make a decision that will challenge you to grow and learn in some way. Today.