I've written about this before, but with summer coming to an end (even thought that really doesn't mean that much in California) I feel compelled (perhaps a dash of early mid-life crisis is stirring) to write about skateboarding. It is a relatively recent development that has led to skateboarding being omitted from my daily thoughts, much less activities and social life. I'm okay with this, and am very excited for the future, which will undoubtedly have very little skateboarding in it. But, once in awhile, it is fun to go back and remember exactly what it was that made me fall in love with a kid's wooden toy on wheels.
1992. Summertime. I spent a couple of months in Edmonton, AB Canada with family. It was a glorious time, filled with cousins and friends who all were caught up in skateboarding -- except me, I was not a skateboarder, but the allure of 36mm wheels and jeans with a 36" leg cuffs, a World Industries with a Rocco and a Jason Lee not yet on network television was too much for me to resist: I was all in.
At the end of the summer of 1992 I bought an old Alva Skateboard, with generic trucks and wheels from a friend's older brother. Even at this point it was outdated and a point of ridicule. Thankfully my birthday was right around the corner and I did my best to ensure that my parents would supply the new setup that I needed. I remember calling, everyday, the main skateshop in Portland at that time, a place called Cal Skate, which even though they were in a different location back then, is still in business today. At one point, after calling every day after school for what was probably weeks, the guy who answered the phone said, basically: "look little kid, we have the Morrision New Deal board in stock, we will have it in stock, PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE STOP CALLING EVERYDAY!" Luckily, my birthday came and I was able to get my new setup. I'll never forget that I got a New Deal, Andrew Morrison model, with an everslick bottom, Venture low profile trucks and some grey Sidewalk Surfer wheels, probably about 42mm in diameter. I no longer looked like a "poseur," I was finally on the inside.
I learned to ollie and heelflip on the carpet in my parent's basement, and then took the tricks to the dangerous concrete of the garage. Portland is a rainy place, and finding places to ride when it rains is tough. What the climate does do, however, is engender a tighter nit community than otherwise would be found in metro areas of similar sizes. Perhaps this is part of the reason I so eagerly glommed on to the "skateboarder" persona. Undoubtedly, the relative unpopular nature of skateboarding in the early 90's had a lot to do with it as well. There were a couple of other "skaters" at the high school I attended, and but I really began to make friends with the other skaters all over the city, which meant I nearly completely withdrew from any and all social aspects of my high school. I am thankful for this.
My thoughts, as far as this specific post is concerned, is much larger than a teenager and his coming of age via skateboarding (not nearly as kinky as it sounds...) but more to do with the various labels that we either construct for ourselves, or find thrust upon us -- usually an amalgamation of both is in a perpetual flux, a constant waxing and waning of who we want to be, who we actually are and, of course, how others perceive us.
In my moments of deeper reflection I can easily distinguish different "epochs" of my life, in that my geographic locations, occupations, peer groups, short and long term goals have drastically changed. The first twenty years of my life were spent surrounded by family, close distant relatives -- literally hundreds if not thousands of them at different times. I am thankful for this time in my life, as I feel as if I was raised by a village and that I am better for it. But, most of these people haven't known me in a long time, and the last time they've seen me (or, perhaps even heard how I was doing) was in a time when my short and long term goals were directly related to skateboarding and the culture there within.
Understandably, when these people hear that I am in medical school, an element of surprise is present. If I were asked, twenty years ago, if I would be the one out of my peer group (well, depending on who I was with at the time...) to become a doctor, I would have laughed in scorn for even suggesting such a thing.
I would also like to think that exogenous states of being, such as one's occupation, level of education or cultural sensibilities aren't as judged as harshly as they are. Of course, they are. And, of course, I often fall in the same trap. I find myself judging those who can't spell or use grammar to a certain degree, which led to this as a birthday gift a year or two ago.
In no way does it surprise me that people perceive me differently when they know I am a student-doctor, versus when I was a career coffee roaster, a line cook (ahem...chef!) or a construction worker -- or, a skateboarder. But, I really try and remember that I am still the same person as when I did all those other things. This isn't as difficult as I am making it sound, as I do still feel like the same person.
When I hear stories of doctors that act like jerks (thus far, I've actually heard many, many more stories versus dealing with them in person) I can't help but imagine that they've burrowed into the persona too such a degree, they can't see their way out. I'm thankful for my days as a skateboarder (even though I still consider myself a "skater") and all the other personas I've embodied, whether by perception or by construction over the years, as sometimes any help we can get to help us stay grounded is necessary.