Rise and grind


In the last few weeks, I’ve been waking up before sunrise in order to get to the local skate park. I wake up early in order to beat the heat, but also to avoid seeing anybody else at the park – there’s still a part of me that feels like the new kid in the lunch room, and I feel like I don’t fit in.

I remember feeling that feeling the first time I went to the park, and it didn’t feel good.

Having just bought my first pair of aggressive inline skates (crown the Marketplace King, please) I went to the park on a Sunday morning and thought I’d get there before anybody showed up. when I pulled into the parking lot, I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one who wanted to get there early; the lot was filled with cars.

A crowd of ‘cool’ looking guys in their 40’s gathered in front of the park; backwards hats, gym bags full of gear and cups of coffee in their hands and I noticed how they seemed to own the park while I put on my pads…

…I instantly felt like a dork and I thought about packing up my gear to head home.

I started to take off my pads and justify avoiding a collision in a full park, when somebody walked up to me and said:

”Beautiful morning, isn’t it?”

I looked over and saw somebody putting on their helmet. I agreed and then introduced myself, and explained I was new to the park.

“Man, you’re gonna have a great time. We come here most weekends and skate. If you wanna learn on the the quarter pipe, I’ll stay out of your way.”

With that, I got the confidence to put on my skates and hit the ramp for the first time – which terrified me.

Imagine somebody pushes you from behind. That instant feeling of your balance being eroded is what happens every single time you change positions on a ramp. Your entire body starts to react as if it’s going to fall, and you have to force yourself to overcome that feeling in order to avoid falling.

Every time I fall, I quickly realize the fall isn’t nearly as bad as I thought a fall would be – and I’m thankful to wear the pads that take a hard scratch instead of my skin.

This morning, I got to the park and began to stretch before putting on my pads. I’m probably the only person to ever nail a cat-cow on the manual box, but I’ve found that doing some yoga stretches before I skate helps warm up the muscles in my back that are prone to blow-outs.

As I was putting on my skates, I noticed a young boy arrive on a scooter with his Mom. He seemed to have an issue with one of the hand grips, and his Mom was struggling to fix it.

“Need a hand?” I asked as I skated over.

The boy explained his hand grip had slid out and he wasn’t able to get it back on the metal handle.

“The next time this happens, spit on it. It’ll slide right back.”

I grabbed the handlebar grip and slide it back – sans spit. Sometimes you need Dad hands.

His Mom told me that he was just learning at the park and that she was going to be close by at the soccer field. I told her I’d keep an eye on her son and that he was in good hands.

While he skated, I noticed him take a spill and I asked him if he wanted to use an extra set of pads I had in the car – he happily took them. As he put on the pads, I explained to him that I was also new and came there to learn so someday I could teach my son how to skate.

“If I learn how to stay safe now, I’ll be able to teach him when he comes here.”

I remember seeing him scoot around the park and thinking that someday I’d be there with Atlas; there to protect him, pick him up when he falls, and be his guide in a place that can seem scary – just like life.

That’s when I took a fall…

I looked across the park and saw the little kid waving at me, asking if I was ok. I signaled a thumbs-up and dusted off my pads.

There was something really incredible about that moment, and I think that times like this are something that is really important in both the development of a young man, but also for me as a Dad.

I want to know that out in the world, there are people who sincerely care and look after other children as if they were their own. In fact, I need to believe that there are kind-hearted people in the world in order to prevent my mind from defaulting to a ‘sky is falling’ view of the world.

There’s a saying that it ‘takes a village’ to raise a child, and I couldn’t agree more. Every day there are people responsible for helping raise your children – seen through the smallest interactions that leave a mark on their mind.

“Hey man, do you want me to record you doing a jump?” I asked.

If you want to see a little boy light up, address them as a man. I remember how this felt went I was younger because of the way one man spoke to me; Ed, the man who cut my hair as a child. He’d always shake my hand, look in my eye and address me as “young man” and it made me feel empowered.

He picked the spot he wanted to jump from and I found the best angle to make the ramp look bigger than it was.

He rolled down the ramp and as he approached the jump-off point, his scooter hit a groove in the sidewalk and he flew over the handlebars, landing on his pads.

“Well, we got that in slow-mo, so you can learn how to avoid that in the future!” I said, as he quickly bounced up and ran to the top to try it again.

This time, he nailed the jump and I captured him flying through the air…

It made that kids day to see himself in action, as well as to show off something to his family. Kids need that, I think.

I continued to skate until I began to notice myself getting sloppy and making mistakes. It was time to go home. Injuries happen when you get stupid.

While I packed up my gear, the kid skated over and asked me about my son. I showed him the Atlas tattoo on my arm and asked him if he wanted to see something cool, so I pulled up atlaskicks.com and explained to him that I was going to teach Atlas how to have his own business, and then give it to him when he gets older.

“You can sell lemonade for 50 cents, or you can sell shoes for $99”

He was enthralled as I showed him how to use an AI image generator and explained to him how a website works as I finished packing up my gear.

I told him to keep the pads and it was time to go.

As I walked away, he yelled at me:

”Your pad is sticking to your shorts!”

I pointed to my padded shorts and told him they weren’t going anywhere…

”No, your wrist pad.” As he pointed to my backside. Lo and behold, my wrist pad was stuck to the back of my shorts and hanging down like a piece of toilet paper when you leave the bathroom…

Hey, maybe it’s not so bad to be the new kid in school and go through an embarrassing situation, fall or wave of panic because you’re new. On the other side of that fear is something absolutely incredible.



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