Last weekend I went to a friends roller skating birthday party. I hadn’t been roller skating before and although I had rollerbladed as a kid, hadn’t done that in a good 16 years or so as well. The event took place after hours in a public school, a flashing disco ball hung above the doorway outside marking the entrance. By the time I arrived, twenty or so people were skating around in a repurposed school gym with Christmas lights hung all around the ceiling and a TV playing 80s music hung above the ‘rink’.
I was feeling pretty good about coming out, despite the long journey to BedStuy from Queens and the frigid cold. Soon as I stepped into the building my nose started to thaw and the man who greeted me was friendly and all smiles as he helped me find skates in my size. It wasn’t until I put the skates on and attempted to skate over to the rink that I suddenly realized how absolutely terrifying this was going to be. After nearly falling flat on my back several times, it took every ounce of courage I had to not take the skates off and sit by the chips and cupcakes all night.
I saw some of my other friends sitting in chairs watching the skaters go by; they were waiting till they gathered enough confidence to get the skates on at all. I sorely wished I had waited to do the same. However my skates were on and there was nothing left to do but get moving and get used to the motion – left, right, left, right. Some super talented skaters whizzed past me dipping and twirling and skating backward and I watched in admiration and envy until I had to nervously look down at my own feet to make sure I was still shuffling along – left, right, left, right.
My friend whose birthday it was also hadn’t really skated before but she was all smiles in a beautiful flowing white dress. She’s a new friend and I’m completely grateful she’s in my life her positive energy and laughter are infectious. I felt like giving up and sitting on the sidelines and I did take a break to try and feel more grounded, in charge of my body and luxuriously safe, (and to eat a cupcake). Eventually, that got boring and I started to feel lazy. Plus the birthday girl was out there getting her groove on, so I powered up my nerve and went back out into the rink.
After I’d gone around and around maybe 30 times I started to get the hang of it. I started to let my feet get a little more creative with their gliding, pointing my toes towards each other and letting my skates glide close and then tilting my toes out and allowing my feet and legs to follow. By maybe the 40th time around the rink, I started to move my upper body in time with the music a bit, relaxing into the beat.
By the end of the night, I was blowing past people and one of the guys who had been skating backward and doing tricks randomly held my hand and tried to get me to twirl around and I had to explain ‘oh no I’m new to this can’t spin yet!’. It felt damn good to be skating around with the wind blowing my hair back and the hum of laughter and other skaters swooshing by. Being in motion and allowing myself to go with the flow of everyone around me felt so positive. Pushing through my fear had yet again led to an adventure, a new experience, and a deeper appreciation for the variety of ways I can enjoy being alive.
Another day, another lesson learned about the importance of taking action in service of my values in spite of the limitations of my fears.