You know that phrase, ‘Don’t grow up, it’s a trap’? While almost as cliche-ridden as your garden variety Hot Topic T-shirt with the words ‘You laugh at me because I’m different, I laugh at you because you are all the same,’ plastered across the front in some angry font worn by an equally angry teenager, I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment (the former, not the latter of course). Because at 29, I’ve found a new hobby generally relegated to the likes of 16 year old testosterone-fueled adolescent boys who shower once a week and I’m not even the least bit sorry.
But let’s rewind first. When I was in middle school (picture me wagging my finger like an old man recounting tales from his youth), we didn’t have the fashion sense to dress in a way we wouldn’t later be embarrassed of. Luckily, although we had myspace, and the internet has been known to never forget, this was before facebook, the smart phone, and in-between the switch from film photography to digital, so most of the embarrassing evidence is missing from digital public record and buried in a shoebox somehwere. So you will just have to take my word for it when I say that I was an avid shopper at Pac Sun and an enthusiast for extremely unpractically wide leg pants, Vans skater shoes, and Independent T-Shirts. And as such, became attracted to the idea of skateboarding. And so I did what any suburban kid with a dream would do: Avidly watched the X games, played a lot of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, bought a skateboard, and then completely abandoned the idea of actually skating when I realized I was too chicken shit to attempt anything.
Still, the dream of being on four wheels never truly left my consciousness (or subconscious for that matter), because at the beginning of last summer when the guy I was in a relationship with decided to buy a longboard, I decided to get a skateboard and fulfil my adolescent dream of shredding.
The problem with last summer was that I was woefully unaware of the plethora of skate parks in Berlin, and the locations I was aware of intimidated me to no end because they were full of extremely talented skaters, all of which who were male. I have never been one to shy away from something based on my gender, but for any female who has ever wanted to skate, I am sure they can relate to the fear of not being taken seriously, getting laughed off the mini ramp by a bunch of bros, or simply being in the way and/or eating shit in front of a bunch of strangers.
In addition to this, I had been under the impression before buying my board that skating was something better left in the past – that certain hobbies an activities had some kind of expiration date, and like spoilt milk, which was better left untouched once this date had been reached. I thought I had to be a “real grown up,” and do “real grown up things.” Spoiler alert: There is no such thing as a real grown up. Or rather, there is such a thing as a grown up, but it’s not about having your shit together. It’s about making a series of bad decisions to which you can only hold yourself accountable for while trying to mask these failed attempts at “adulting” to the outside world – most notably from your extended family at the family reunion while you get drunk off of sangria and sneak a cigarette break behind the shed worrying about your man-problems (or women problems!) as everyone talks about how accomplished your married cousin with the husband and two kids is.* (This is a purely 100% imagined scenario, but I think you’re picking up what I’m putting down.)
Still, when I realized that my 14 years older than me boyfriend-at-the-time had no qualms about picking up longboarding, I realized that so much of why life becomes stale, full of routine (where the highlight of one’s week is purchasing new laundry detergent), and practically unliveable, is because we allow ourselves to be bought into some notion of what maturity or “growing up” is all about. Now I might not be an investment banker, nor anywhere near to getting proposed to nor having kids (I have two cats, though, which is basically the same thing as having two 3 year olds who just never grow up). I may still be struggling to turn my chosen career path into something profitable, still choose my bedtimes poorly, and get overwhelmed at the thought of cleaning my flat, or taking on major forms of responsibility, but I’m the happiest I have ever been in my life at this moment and it’s all down to the fact that I am living life the way I personally want to live it and not giving into any specific societal demands. It also helps that I live in Berlin, the heart of Never-never-land where you never actually have to commit to anything, let alone “growing up,” which has it’s pros and cons – but that is a conversation for another time.
Fast forward to this summer, where my skateboarding story truly begins. Lat month, I met a guy off of tinder who skateboards and being the friendly (albeit naive) American that I was and am, figured it was my chance to make a new platonic friend and fulfil my dream of going to the skatepark. In the end, I don’t think this guy was looking for a female pal, but it did break the glass ceiling and finally got me on my board. Since then, I have been living out my childhood fantasy of becoming a skateboarder. And I have to say that overall the skateboarding community in Berlin has been more than welcoming, so all those fears I had last year are now relatively moot. I’m still pretty tentative when it comes to attempting things I could potentially hurt myself doing, but each day I get a little more brave and force myself to try something that I’m scared of. Now I’m not saying that I’m going to be shredding like Leticia Bufoni any time soon, if ever, but I’m just happy to be doing something I realized I have a strange amount of passion for, and no one is going to stand in the way of me and my board.
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