The Great Skate Experiment: Mental Health

This is a grandiose title for what amounts to me putting on skates a few times a week to crab walk across our patio and try not to fall, but go big or go home, right? And I’m already home, so I need something else to do.

I wouldn’t call what I do on the patio “skating.” I’m badly out of shape and I tend to shake just standing up in those skates. The slightest movement I didn’t instigate sends me grasping for the nearest solid object. At one point I got to the top of a slight rise in our sidewalk–not even a hill–one so slight I hadn’t even noticed it when walking, and just stood there holding a hand rail for ten minutes while I tried to figure out how to get back to level ground without falling on my face, and trying to get up the nerve to just freaking let go.

It’s not even that I’m really afraid of falling. Obviously, going splat on the concrete isn’t that high on my to do list, but I’m not scared of it. I have safety gear. I’ve fallen before. Recently, even. But there’s something else that leaves me clinging to the railing with tears in my eyes, afraid to move forward.

We all want to be good at new things when we try them. Even better if we can just pick them up and do them reasonably well from the first. It makes you feel good, right? That god-like high when you feel like a freaking genius because your first batch of chocolate chip cookies came out perfectly, or when you set up your first blog and it looks amazing, or you win your very first game of chess (never mind that your mom was going easy on you. It’s a win).

But on the flip side, there are those things that we are really, really bad at when we first learn them. Like when you first learn to drive and back your dad’s car into the mailbox before you even get out of the driveway. Or when you spend all day googling because the tax form you need to fill out makes absolutely zero sense and the deadline is fast approaching, or when you go to set up a new page on that blog and end up bringing down the whole website by mistake.

Growing up, there was always an unspoken pressure for me excel. It happens when you’re labeled “gifted” at an early age. The problem for me was that most of the time, I didn’t feel gifted. I usually felt like an idiot because I didn’t understand things the way my peers did (more on that another day). If I did something poorly, even if it was a first try but especially if it was third or forth, I was always accused of not trying hard enough. It didn’t matter that I have two left feet and I’m mostly thumbs. It didn’t matter that I legitimately did not understand what my math teachers were talking about. Getting hit in the face with a ball in gym? Try harder. Panting on the 15th circuit of the jogging track? Suck it up. Don’t understand the homework? Pay more attention.

Anyway, I got used to the idea that if I was bad at something, it was my own fault for not applying myself or trying hard enough. I couldn’t change the things I was bad at (athletics, math), so I started hanging back. I would always try to be the last one to do something, so that way I could observe as many people as possible. As long as I wasn’t the worst in the class, I could blend in. Blending in was okay. Blending in wasn’t bad.

All of that to say, I’m bad at being bad at things. The other day I fell and even though I wasn’t hurt, I had a bit of a meltdown because even after practicing for several days, I still wouldn’t be able to say I can skate. I used to skate a lot. I taught myself a few tricks on roller blades. I have fond memories of quad skating at the roller rink. Usually ten minutes of marching around the rink was all it took for me to pick up the rhythm of skating, and then I was off, doing circles around everyone else.

I know I will get it eventually, but it’s forcing me to unpack a lot of stuff from when I was younger–a lot of negative attitudes and emotional abuse and bully that I dealt with from not only classmates but from the adults in my life, all the way up through my work life and the toxic situations I found myself in after college.

I keep telling myself that it’s okay if I’m not good at something right away. It will take practice. I need to work on my core strength and balance, and it’s all right to not pick it up right away. It’s been more than a decade since I skated in any form.

I’m not sure I believe me yet, but I’m working on it. Hopefully I’ll be better at that than I am at skating.

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1 thought on “The Great Skate Experiment: Mental Health”

  1. Happy skating.
    My 9 year old daughter tried teaching me. That was 20-something years ago. I have yet to master skating. Give me a nice set of cross county skis and some snow. Or scuba gear.

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