I'm Not Good at Roller Skating
But it brings me joy anyway
I step inside the roller rink, skates slung over my shoulder. The disco ball and colorful lights are twirling; 80’s music mix is blasting on the speakers. As I lace up my skates, I can’t wait to get out there and start making my laps. Even so, there’s always an anxious voice whispering: What if I fall? What if I make a complete idiot out of myself?
For the first fifteen-ish minutes, my legs tremble and my ankles burn. Sometimes I still do that startle thing where I temporarily lose my balance and make frantic jerky movements until I regain my footing. Eventually, though, I find my way to the trance. Ah, the Trance! That’s where the good stuff is. Where skating begins to feel less effortful, where my muscles are warmed up and I know I can handle whatever gets thrown my way. In the Trance, I’m aware of the other skaters speeding and swerving around me, but I maintain my composure and continue my loops. Lap after lap, gliding across the polished wood floors.
This place is also where I let go of the stress, frustration, and rage that came onto the rink with me. I know I’m not the only one who is feeling a pretty constant state of agitation these days. This season has brought a lot of churn to my personal life, and to the wider world. Turbulence, unsteadiness, horror, heartache. It’s really hard to find footing when it seems nothing is certain or safe.
When heavy emotions like these build up, they need to be discharged. And one of my favorite ways to move through them is by strapping wheels onto my feet. By intentionally making myself a bit unstable, I require my physical body to find balance. This seems to help me find my way back to balance in the mental and emotional realms as well.
And yet, even when I’m gliding around in the Trance, I harbor no illusions about the level of my abilities. All around me are very talented skaters who look completely at home on their wheels, conveying utter effortlessness as they skate backwards, or skate-dance to the beat, or do little twirls (or even figure-skating-style jumps, HOW???). What I wouldn’t give to look so graceful and at ease!
This is the other reason I come here, though. Not to level up. To embrace my mediocrity.
I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be excellent (or perfect!) at everything I do. I also bought into the cultural expectation that I am only allowed to take pleasure in doing something if I’m good at it. If I’m clumsy or awkward, everyone watching me stumble along will just be embarrassed for me, so I should give up and leave it to the people who actually have talent.
But every time I gracelessly make my way around the rink, I remind myself: It doesn’t matter what you look like. It matters how you feel. Roller skating is my quiet way of rejecting the harmful myth that performance and improvement are the only things that matter. We don’t have to attain mastery in every single thing we do.
Also, I’ve spent far too long letting the fear of other people’s perceptions keep me from things that help me metabolize rage/trauma/despair and find my way back to inner stability. I need this in my life, and I have just as much right to be here as the people who are more talented than I. This rink is big enough for all of us.