When the pandemic interrupted my living situation at university, I was sent home to finish my degree. Like many others, I felt a sudden, unprecedented urge to use the extra time at home to learn something new.
For me, that something new was skateboarding.
An old dream
Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to know how to ride a skateboard.
It’s always looked so achievable and fun. The ease with which skateboarders ride their board is so effortless and cool.
The jumping, the turning and the speed combine to create a beautiful dance on pavement that both invigorates me and makes me slightly envious. I’ve wanted to learn this dance for so long.
So I justified buying a skateboard when submitting my final university essay. And all the protection gear I could possibly come across before I ventured out into the street.
In my quest to master skateboarding, I learned a couple of things.
1. Learning something new is scary!
I knew it would be hard physically, but who knew it’d was so mentally challenging?
Even though I was wearing protection pads for all parts of my body – knee pads, elbow pads and wrist pads, as well as a skiing helmet – I couldn’t rid myself of the fear of falling. Or looking stupid.
I kept imagining the infamous ‘credit-card’ fall; getting sliced by the long side of your skateboard between your legs, and have my bottom half (read: vagina) broken forever. Circling around my mind were thoughts about blood, the hurt, and then some more blood.
I cared about what the 12 year old who was also skating in my street thought of me, a 23-year-old, and my half-hearted attempts at ‘tricks’.
I was in my own head and therefore too scared to take the necessary level of risk to progress. And so I was stuck, riding the board slowly from one side of the street to the other, without the motivation to properly challenge myself.
Can you tell I was overthinking it? But can you blame me?
2. I felt too old to learn
I remember teaching my friend how to ski a couple of years ago, and it was frustrating to explain something that came so naturally to me and so unnaturally to her.
She told me that she couldn’t remember the last time she had learned a new skill from the beginning, and it made me realise it had been years since I had too.
We tend to get set in our ways as adults and we rarely encounter not knowing how to do something – let alone learning something new from scratch.
The fearlessness with which skateboarders throw themselves into the air is something I felt could only be achieved by a fearless child. I started regretting not learning earlier.
Although you can technically learn at any age, expert knowledge suggests we learn better as children.
This has to do with neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganise itself, which decreases with age.
Kids approach life with a sense of wonder and curiosity that we lose as adults. The world really is so crazy and interesting! But we grow used to it and lose our initial intrigue and motivation to learn more.
On the other hand, kids dedicate themselves to skill improvement and making everything a challenge.
Yes, kids are better primed to soak up information and learn new things, but adults too can become proficient learners with the right attitude.
It just takes a longer time, but if you are willing to put in the time, you can learn many of the skills we often think can only be acquired before adulthood, or else not at all. Whether that be a language, social media skills or, you guessed it, skateboarding.
But never think you’re too old to learn!
3. It’s not always easy putting yourself out there
But taking risks is important. Vulnerability can be a gift. And yes, it can open us up to pain and embarrassment but it can also bring us connection and development.
Sometimes we have to admit vulnerability. Although letting go of ourselves scares us, it’s necessary to do the things that we are embarrassed about. This allows us to grow.
Figuring out what you like is one of the most wonderful aspects of growing older, as you can choose how to spend your time!
I have to be honest and say that my skating motivation has dwindled throughout lock-down, and I’ve mostly settled back into my old hobbies; Netflix, reading and knitting.
However, my awe and respect for skateboarders is still there. It’s really not easy, nor safe. But it’s so much fun once you get it right. So I’m going to practice and keep going.
I don’t want to be held back by safe and comfortable anymore. Because once I can get past the initial hurdle of frustration and fear, I’ll get more comfortable and progress.
Soon skateboarding will be another skill under my belt. And I’m going to hold myself accountable by writing this article.
And you should too! As life progresses toward a new normal after months of lock-down, make it a goal to develop and learn a new skill every year.
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