A lot of people are roller skating right now. I see their extra-tall bodies lurching toward me from a few blocks away, the sudden flail of arms, the clomp-clomp-clomp of heavy skates recovering balance. Occasionally, someone glides by gracefully, totally in the zone.
It takes time to learn how to maneuver through the world with wheels laced to your feet.
When I turned 40, I decided to learn how to longboard. It just seemed so cool and badass. I borrowed a board from a colleague. She gave me a lesson and jogged reassuringly beside me as I practiced up and down her street.
I took the board with me on vacation, scouting out smoothly paved streets for practice. And then, one day, I got it.
I sailed clean and fast on that board for at least fifty feet. Far enough to know it felt as freeing and badass as I’d imagined. Far enough to realize I didn’t know how to stop. Far enough to come to a crossroads.
If I wanted to get better at this, it was going to take time and energy to practice, and I was going to have to be okay with the risk of injury. I’d caught myself in enough falls to know how hard and fast a 40-year-old body can hit pavement, and I knew the Jedi-yoga skills that saved me from smashing my face wouldn’t last forever.
I’m not kidding about the Jedi-yoga skills–in one amazing moment, I flew face forward as the board flew out behind me. My right leg was way up high in the air, my left hovered somewhere off the ground, and I could see the individual shapes of asphalt rushing up toward my nose. But then, my arms and legs realigned with my torso, and I landed standing up straight at the end of the block as if nothing had happened, but I felt like the entire planet had shifted a few degrees. This was going to take some getting used to, and those kinds of spastic near-falls would be part of the learning process.
When I came home from vacation, I returned the longboard to my colleague. It had been a fun experiment, but when deciding whether I had the time and the courage to keep practicing, I felt a tug in a different direction. I realized, if I was going to muster some bravery and make time in my life, I wanted it to be for art and writing–two life-long passions that never managed to get my full commitment.
It took trying something totally new for me to rediscover what I had wanted all along.
I’m glad I tried to longboard. I still feel pretty badass for having tried. But I’m even more grateful that it reawakened me to what I had always wanted and gave me the courage to stay with it. Whether you’ve got the stamina for roller skating or longboarding, or you feel the quiet pull of half-full journals waiting to capture your thoughts, I whole-heartedly believe what George Eliot says: it is never too late to be what you might have been.
Happy new year!