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Over the course of these 41 years, I’ve tried my hand at any number of hobbies, crafts, and disciplines. A short list might include music lessons (voice, drum and piano), artistic endeavors (watercolor, acrylic and oil painting, ceramics, glass-blowing, glass beading, jewelry design, writing), physical fitness (swimming, capoeira, running, mountain biking, gymnastics, and weight lifting) and a slew of other random undertakings (community theater, podcasting, animation, photography, videography, origami, dog training, blogging).

This is not meant to impress. This is to give you some idea of the number of things I have quit, not the number of things I have mastered. The general pattern is this: 1. Find something interesting. 2. Do it. 3. Discover a certain level of talent for said thing. 4. Reach point where natural talent must be supplemented by will and determination. 5. Quit. This has happened so often and with such frequency that since childhood, I’ve heard a version of this criticism: “You’re smart/talented/capable, but you don’t have the passion/drive/commitment to make the most of it.” It’s the whole 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration thing. Perspiration has never really been my thing.

In spite of this potentially disheartening list of failures, I have realized that there is at least one thing that I have remained committed to for many, many years: Quad Roller Skating. (Insert record scratch here.)

Imagine a younger version of me, say 12-13 years old. I’m attending a High School run by an evangelical, apocalyptic religion. We aren’t allowed to dance or listen to the radio and girls are prohibited from wearing open toed shoes because, according to my Vice Principal, seeing girls’ toes makes boys think of making babies. The one entertainment that we are allowed, strangely, is roller skating. No secular music, of course, and no blue jeans, because those two things are like the wick and the lighter to teenage rebellion; instead we skate to Hooked on Classics.

There we are, my classmates and I, skating around to disco versions of Edvard Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King and Handel’s The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. Without hyperbole, I can tell you that this was the most freedom that I experienced in Junior High and High School. There was a disco ball for Christ’s sake! The music we were listening to had a beat! For a closeted kid like me, this was the closest thing to a gay bar that I had ever experienced.

I was, I would say, a solid B skater. I could skate forward really well, and I could do cross-overs around the turn, and that was better than most of my classmates, but I could not skate backwards. Kenechi could. David could. Emmanuel could. And that meant that Arleen and Shelley and Grace wanted to skate with them and not with me. I remember watching with a deep and abiding envy as they floated across the hardwood floors so freely, so beautifully. I tried to figure out how to skate backwards but after a couple of falls, I became embarrassed and gave up. I reconciled myself to a life of forward skating and quit trying. This continued for a good long while.

Despite the passage of years, rollerskating continued to nag at my consciousness. In college, my friend Charles had a pair that sped him around campus like a sort of superhero. I have an image of him seared in my mind: a rainy spring day in Oberlin Ohio. Charles skating along a sidewalk, undeterred by the wet, his wheels lifting a wake of water into the air behind him.

When rollerblades came out, I bought a pair and spent a few weeks skating tentatively around downtown Albuquerque. I gave this up too, again because I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be and the perfectionist that lived inside of my head could not abide looking foolish and inexpert.

Cut to my 36th year. The information superhighway had exploded into existence (Thanks Mr. Gore!) and through the miracle of YouTube, I discovered HotSteppingGranny. Go ahead. Watch some of her videos here, here, here and here. I’ll help you gather your thoughts after she blows your mind.

So yeah, I found HSG and was INSPIRED. I decided that my 37th birthday party was going to be a rollerskating twin party. I ordered a pair of skates. I spent hours in our kitchen, laptop on the counter, watching and re-watching; attempting to imitate HSG’s burn-the-house-down moves. I made hand-drawn invitations -- Wonder Twin Powers: Roller Skate! I selected the music. This was going to be my time to shine!

The party was great, but to my consternation, I was still a B-level skater. I still wasn’t comfortable skating backwards and my inner perfectionist prevented me from trying out my super-fly dance moves. Still and all, I had an absolute blast. The freedom that I had found so compelling during my awkward pubescence was just as powerful and intoxicating as ever. I had a silly grin plastered on my face from start to finish. This was the moment that I realized that I roller skating was a true passion for me; one of the happiest places on earth.

Since that moment, I’ve never been too far from my skates. When we decided to give away most of our belongings and head out on The Endless Road Trip, one of the few things that I decided to bring along were my skates. I’ve skated in rinks all over the country, from Portland’s magnificent Oaks Park to Santa Fe’s tiny, alien-themed Rockin’ Roller Event Arena; from Interskate 91 in Hadley, MA to Lakeshore Roller World in Stevensville, MI (the same rink that started it all). I’ve finally mastered the art of backward skating and, at 41, consider myself an A -- well A-, anyway -- skater. I’m still not as good as HSG, but I can hold my own in almost any company. And in the process, I’ve learned some important lessons.

You can’t choose your passions. You can only discover them -- We spend so much time trying to be what we are not, chasing dreams that are not our own. And in the process, we learn to ignore the call of our true passions. If we do this long enough, we become insensate, unable to recognize the dreams/relationships/experiences that light up our souls. But if we find it within ourselves to stop worrying about what is respectable or worthy or culturally important and concern ourselves with what brings us freedom and joy and challenge and pride, then we have also found the doorway to a, richer, more vibrant world. Discovering a single passion makes it easier to recognize others and when we follow this trail of delicious, tantalizing breadcrumbs, we find ourselves living lives full of heat and color and light.

It’s never too late to start becoming the person you dreamt of becoming -- When I finally mastered the art of backward skating, when other people looked at me with the same sort of admiration with which I once regarded Kenechi and David and Emmanuel, a childhood wound was healed. A part of me that had been stopped cold, pushed, and held down by perfectionism and fear of judgement, finally found freedom. That part of me -- yes, that infamous inner child -- found its way back to the fold, exiled no more.

You’ve got to start somewhere -- No matter how strong the passion, no matter how clear the drive, we cannot begin any process as an expert. There will be failure. There will be embarrassment. There will be fear. But those things present themselves not to stop you, but to guide you. If you find something that outlasts, surpasses and transcends these transient sensations; if you find something that pulls you through that darkness, then you know that you are on the path to something truly rewarding. When people approach me, asking me how I learned to skate and doubting their own abilities, this is what I say: “Every skater that you admire started off just exactly like you.”

I am continually surprised and amused that one of the greatest passions of my life is rollerskating. It may not solve the problem of childhood poverty or religious warfare; it may not have a lasting cultural significance or make the world a more civil, tolerant place, but it has revealed the liberation that comes from play and joy and passion. And frankly, in an environment that attempts to stop us, push us, and hold us down, we need more of exactly that.

Update 2: I sent Hot Stepping Granny, my long-distance internet-based quad-skate mentor, a link to this diary. Her beautifully articulated response follows:

I was the androgynous fat kid =D Too fat for dance, too fat for gymnastics (and I nearly lost my right leg as a young kid trying). The eternal tomboy, constantly picked on; I have never fitted in, either excelling, over-achieving or pissing others off because of my strong, but honest opinions. Then came skates. From 4, then 10 to 13 (taught little ones then), had Rebecca, then from my early 30s, when she was old enough to roll with me, on and off, I had almost 20 good years skating and please God, I should have many more.

The only time I felt totally connected was when I skated :) and it was the only thing I ever completely committed to. I endured much taunting, physical, verbal AND mental abuse because of it, but that only served to strengthen my resolve to skate more. When that inner light came on and it does when one skates, it only served to cause me more trouble as I was a vocal supporter of quad skating and very many skated in-line here. But I kept on going. Through it, I became the most unlikely of athletes and the nicest most surprising thing of all was the spiritual aspect.

The mastery of self was quite simply amazing, a feeling, which simply had to be shared. This is something that I love with a passion and something which I freely shared, as morally, I would have felt uncomfortable if I had charged to teach others. Every moment spent on skates, is a moment invested in self. Which is a truly precious thing. When those moments combine together, others can see and appreciate the dedication and determination that the skater skating has put in and they become inspired in turn. No words necessary, but the feelings, intentions and energy is shared. All it requires is to be willing. Eventually it becomes a common bond which knows no boundaries; a great leveler that does not know age, race, gender, financial restrictions or any form of prejudice. We are all struggling to keep upright and to find a true and straight path in life, but it's so much more fun on wheels, being in touch with ones' higher self AND ones' inner child at the same time :)

From a timid child, my step-son, Reiss, became the most confident, talented skater. From that central core strength, he has now become a bodybuilder of all things. From my oldest grandson, Kelsen's skating, although he hides it, he has become the most phenomenal dancer. His football and athletic ability though, he does not hide and he is well on the way to becoming a professional footballer, which is his dream. Little Kayden has not only become a talented skater in his own right, but his balance and strength is incredible. He too is an incredible dancer but also has a phenomenal memory for martial arts katas and is a bit of a daredevil on anything with wheels. He's also after the football dream. But he does meditate now and says it helps him. When he gets mad or hurt, he uses 'ohm' and incense to help make things better. So much good can come from putting skates on :)

May ALL enlightened beings find peace AND roller skating XXX

Namaste _/ ♥ _

Crossposted at Highest First with a picture of a young Siddharthasays. Big teeth. Be warned.

Originally posted to siddharthasays on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 09:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.


What's your Happy Place?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for the encouragement! (6+ / 0-)

    I loved reading this. Your passion for skating shines through.

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 11:32:45 AM PDT

  •  Wonderful diary. I too, love to skate... (8+ / 0-)

    though mine is a different type of skating.  I've always been very athletic, a runner, a very serious cyclist, played basketball, etc.  It wasn't until the age of 30 that I discovered ice skating and in particular, ice hockey.  Now, keep in mind that I'm from Texas.  We don't have outdoor rinks, but Dallas has many indoor rinks and a surprising number of rec leagues for all different talent levels.  

    My first time on the ice (30 years old) was spent holding on the boards, arms flailing wildly, followed by a lot of time with my bum on the ice.  Six years later, I've progressed several levels up in the local leagues, and many of our newer skaters look to me as one of the better skaters on the ice.  The beauty of ice hockey is in the balance of incredible speed and grace, coupled with the sheer and utter chaos of 9 other grown men flying around the ice around you, all with razor blades on your feet and a frozen puck traveling much too fast at parts of your body.  When I'm on the ice, I think of nothing.  I simply listen as my skates cut the ice, look at the swirling mass around me, and sometimes when things are all in line, I can feel the energy of the game pulling me where it wants me to go.  

    I too will never change the world with my passion, but it's changed me in ways that affect the people I love, and that is a blessing unto itself.  

    skate on.  :)

    "Kindly go render the fat in your head in a large kettle of boiling water. Thank you." - Bumblebums -7.38, -6.46

    by balancedscales on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 01:02:48 PM PDT

    •  the skating family (4+ / 0-)

      I really liked your description of the beauty of ice hockey.

      My friends and I talk about skating in completely kooky, surfer-esque ways sometimes -- "It's like your true essence can express itself when you're out there, man!" -- but in all honesty, I do think that skating touches something in us that is really difficult to express in words. It's powerful stuff!

      Thanks for reading and writing.And as always, it is a pleasure to meet another member of the skate family.

      small steps lead to long journeys

      by siddharthasays on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 02:12:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I always liked roller rinks (8+ / 0-)

    and am pleased at the comeback of roller derby, even though it's been decades since I put on skates and, being a guy, roller derby except as a fan was never in the cards.

    Those newfangled in-line skates never did it for me.

    And yeah, backward skating with quad roller skates or ice-skates wasn't something I ever figured out until I took Karate and realized that my problem was a center-of-mass thing.  You have to thrust hips forward and shoulder back to balance properly if you go backward, which is the opposite of what you do when trying to keep balance when not moving or moving forward.  It feels awkward for the human body until you get used to it.

    •  Quad Rules! (3+ / 0-)

      It's a shame how many great rinks have been demolished. The legendary Rainbo Roller Rink in Chicago is no more; a towering block of condos where it once stood.

      On the other hand, there are still some amazing floors out there. My local rink, Rockin' Rollers Event Arena, is teensy, about the size of 20 California King Waterbeds, but everyone who comes out always has an absolute blast. It is festooned with alien paraphernalia, including a Space Girls Poster depicting all of the Spice Girls as grays. The owners are awesome, the crowd is tight knit and supportive, and I'm lucky to have it in my life.

      What is your happy place?

      small steps lead to long journeys

      by siddharthasays on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 02:17:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let me date myself. I first heard Rapper's Delight (5+ / 0-)

    while going around in circles in Paramus, New Jersey. I wasn't very good, but a girl in my painting class had taken figure skating lessons and she learned to translate some of the moves to roller skates. She taught me how to stop without crashing into a wall, how to go backwards and even a couple of really impressive looking leaps. When I think of nerdy little uncoordinated self actually trying these things on her cement patio, I'm lucky that my cranium isn't cracked.

    I haven't skated in years, but I have a fifty-something year old cousin who still skates almost every Saturday night.

  •  What a cool story! (4+ / 0-)

    Thanks for sharing it.  I thoroughly enjoy the non-political diaries and intellectual curiosity found among Kossacks, glad you posted!

    Skating is one of the few forms of exercise I truly enjoy.  When I lived in CO ~12 years ago, there were three ice rinks close to my job.  I skated 4-5 days a week, either before work or on my lunch hour.  I got up to Freestyle 2 in lessons and could do a respectable waltz jump and toe loop.  It was awesome!  I totally get the simple joy of being on skates :)

    When I was 31 I went back to nursing school and it fell by the wayside.  Just after graduation I broke my foot and we moved to Charlotte; the combination effectively iced my skating career.  

    Just four months ago, I found a new passion in bass guitar.  It's probably the first time since my skating days that I've stuck with anything for more than a few weeks.  Both of my teachers tell me I'm their favorite student because of my passion and self-motivation -- little do they know how many times I've been called flaky along the way.  

    I have no idea where it came from; I hadn't played music since high school.  I just woke up on my 44th birthday, and said, "I think I'll buy myself a bass."  The rest is history 8-)

     I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire engine.     -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by SteelerGrrl on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 03:19:37 PM PDT

    •  Bass of Skates! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, SteelerGrrl, 4Freedom

      It is amazing how 2 hours of skating can be both killer cardio and pure joy at the same time. If only I enjoyed going to the gym half as much as I love going to the rink.

      Thanks for sharing your story. I can't even imagine doing a waltz jump or toe loop. Maybe I better downgrade myself to a B++!

      Congrats on finding another passion to drive you!

      small steps lead to long journeys

      by siddharthasays on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 08:34:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Quad Skates Rule (3+ / 0-)

    My Daughter has been doing the Roller Derby bit for 2 years now. Practice twice a week, bouts every 3 weeks. She claims we have been training her all her life. 14 yrs Dance, 11 racing Go Karts and 17 yrs skiing. She picked up skating pretty quick.

  •  The Orbit in Palatine, IL! (3+ / 0-)

    A big maple wood floor. Great for quads, and they also allow in-lines. Everything is good!


    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

    by unclebucky on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 04:32:24 PM PDT

  •  The OAKS is on my bucket list! (3+ / 0-)

    All the way from Illinois to the West Coast, but I will sure try!

    I am a former Hub skater.

    I am a fan of the organists there, one in particular, Leon Berry


    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

    by unclebucky on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 04:35:35 PM PDT

  •  Hi, Siddhartha (6+ / 0-)

    I have a story kind of like yours, actually. I grew up in a household with a delusional Evangelical mother who allowed me to do virtually nothing. I had no friends, wasn't allowed to go anywhere but to school, and spent my teen years mostly lonely and bored.

    I started skating in my parents' driveway (we lived in SoCal, where I could skate outdoors year-round) when I was in elementary school. I watched ice skating on television whenever I could so I could try to teach myself to jump and spin. I got pretty good, too. The only music I had was a local Top 40 radio station, and I adjusted what clothes I had in an effort to look the part.

    By the time I was 14 or 15, I'd gotten really good. I could do toe loops, Axels, and flips, and could spin myself dizzy. I had great lines, too! Several neighbors spoke to my mother privately and encouraged her to send me for figure skating lessons, but my mother wanted nothing more than to marry me off at 18 as all good girls are supposed to, and I never got to see if I could fulfill my passion and endless hours of practice with something more....significant.

    My happiest daydreams, particularly when I hear music that touches me, are memories of skating.

    In 2004 I injured my back lifting something I shouldn't have, and because of alignment issues with my hips, skating now is very, very painful. But your diary brought tears to my eyes, remembering the countless hours I spent practicing and refining, perfecting and experimenting....alone.

    Hugs, sweetie!

    "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose." ―Yoda to Anakin Skywalker

    by Auntie Neo Kawn on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:12:48 PM PDT

    •  Adult Children of Evangelists (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's good to know that there are other people who were "kept small" in a similar way. I believe it makes us stronger, forces us to become willful enough to break through the shell and find our way to life.

      My sisters often wonder what would have happened to us if we had been encouraged in our passions rather than having them brushed aside in favor of religious dogma. Of course, reimagining the past is of no use now...all we can do is keep striving towards our own light.

      I hope my diary brought some joy with those tears. The entire skate family is on your side!

      small steps lead to long journeys

      by siddharthasays on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 08:46:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  avid quadster here! (4+ / 0-)

    and i didn't learn to skate backwards until i was 50-i started taking lessons and boy did that make a difference.

    congrats on getting back into one of the funnest recreational activities on earth.

    hope springs eternal and DAMN is she getting tired!

    by alguien on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 05:22:09 PM PDT

    •  Nifty Fifty (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alguien, 4Freedom

      Congratulations on keeping at it! I hope to be skating as long as I possibly can...that's one of the reasons I'm such a big Hot Stepping Granny fan. If you knew her story, you'd have a better understanding of the word "perseverance."

      Skate on!

      small steps lead to long journeys

      by siddharthasays on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 08:48:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you so much for this (4+ / 0-)

    Skating!  My very favourite activity.  But, I've not been for at least 7 years.

    Last time was just after I turned 60 and I found my legs a bit less strong and my strides, especially on the corners, less certain.  

    Last week, I had a very long dream about skating.   It was marvelous.  I have never felt as free as when skating.  I loved flying around the ice, wind in my face.  I wore speed skates.

    This is what it was like on open ice, but most of what I did was in a rink with hundreds of other people, and everyone taking their strides to the music that was playing.  The whole rink was filled with the sound of "swish, swish" - the rhythm of skates moving in unison.  It was like the beat kept you going.  Heaven!

    Outdoor skating

  •  I would have rec'd for the Oaks Park shoutout (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, siddharthasays, 4Freedom

    alone. :)

    Paul Ryan has risen to prominence because he thinks that poor people should suffer and he doesn't mind saying so.

    by VictorLaszlo on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 06:01:20 PM PDT

  •  You didn't make quadskating a poll option :( (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    siddharthasays, 4Freedom

    No one was ever as obsessed with quad skating as I was. You simply can't even imagine. But I took a very different path.

    When I started quad skating in my early thirties I was, undoubtedly like most beginning skaters, unable to move under my own power. An old-time ice skating teacher at the rink was offering a series of 4 lessons, which I took advantage of. Within a few years I had done dance, figures, and speedskating, traveling all over the country, and becoming certified as a coach. Eventually the money ran out and I came back to my senses, at the same time my body was also beginning to object.

    •  DOH! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Wow, that was dumb of me! But I'm learning from Mitt for Bains that the best strategy is to Never Apologize! So take that!

      Seriously, tho, I loved hearing about your quad skating path. It sounds like it must have been quite a ride! That's what passions do: They have their way with us, change us, and take us to places that we never even imagined! Beautiful.

      small steps lead to long journeys

      by siddharthasays on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 07:52:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  singing songs at my church: the High Noon Saloon (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    siddharthasays, Audri, 4Freedom

    Praise Dionysus

    Slow thinkers - keep right

    by Dave the Wave on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 07:38:51 AM PDT

  •  So that is what they are called now? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    siddharthasays, 4Freedom

    Your diary triggered a flood of found memories of roller skating. My parents met at a roller rink and it has been a tradition for three generations.

    I spent countless hours rolling in a circle every summer as a kid and still have blister scarring on my feet. I spent my school breaks in SoCal with my grandmother and she would drop me and my sisters off at the rink to get a break from us.

    In the 70s rexing was the thing. Skate Ranch in Santa Ana had an organ player to play the music we skated to. Rexing was set to country music at that time. In the later part of the 70s, the rink got hip and switched to a disco/top tunes DJ. Each rink had one or two rexing clubs associated with it. I was in the Roam'n Rexers club.

    SoCal rexing is backwards skating not to be confused with
    forward rexing in NorCal. The most difficult to master was spot rexing. After high school, I used my outdoor skates for transportation. The bus drivers on my route knew me and let me get on the bus without taking the skates off.

    I quit when I became a parent and let go of the trophies many years ago but I held onto my skates for a long time. Oh, about 7 years ago, for a Halloween event, I put on my dusty skates and went as a beach skater. I had a blast. When I needed to move, I decided to give them away. I figured I would never have a future need for them again and I wasn't getting any younger. I think it is the only thing I have let go of and really regret.

    Your story ends on a happy note. Congratulations. I think you have inspired me to take it back up even though I too am a granny. Next stop Ebay to find me some skates.

    •  Spot Rexing is Sick! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AZ Sphinx Moth, 4Freedom

      Wowza. It's just so great to trace how skating has had such a strong effect on people. Clearly, the people in the videos have spent hours and hours practicing and honing their skills out of love of skating. It's beautiful to see!

      Also, and more importantly, the fact that you're going to look coming back to skating, and that my diary had something to do with that happy reunion...well that just made my whole week! Thank you so much for reading and sharing. I really really appreciate it.

      Skate on!

      small steps lead to long journeys

      by siddharthasays on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 12:02:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Waltz. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    siddharthasays, 4Freedom

    Following a good, gentle lead, with amazingly beautiful music.

    "I'm grateful for my job - truly, but still...ugh." CityLightsLover

    by Audri on Tue Sep 18, 2012 at 12:25:48 PM PDT

  •  What memories this diary has brought back (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for me.  This is a little OT, but my kids spent many years rollerskating, it was their favorite pasttime.  My youngest took lessons and entered competitions.  I'd do it all over again if I could.

    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 12:08:31 AM PDT

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