I know what you're thinking - but this is not a story about how I overcame my fear at the skatepark. I'll just let you know right here and now, spoiler alert: I can't drop in yet. I know exactly how to do it, but I'm still too scared.
If you're new to skate lingo, dropping in is when you start at the top of a ledge and hang the whole front of your board over the bowl or ramp. You put your back foot on the tail of the board, secured to ground with both wheels suspended, and then, as you reach your front foot to the front bolts, you bend into the movement and give your full weight and trust to the air. If you do it right, you glide below on all four wheels. It's an easy move, really. It doesn't take a lot of skill or maneuvering, but the one thing you must get over in order to get it down is the one thing so many of us can't quite seem to do...
Get over the fear, and commit.
Hopefully you see where I'm going with this. No, my friends, this is not really about skating. This is about the act of dropping in. For me, this phrase has taken on several meanings in the past year. Dropping in on the bowl, duh. But also dropping in to adulthood. Dropping in on my body, my emotions, my connection to the world. And I have to say, this "dropping in" business, in whatever form it takes, feels just like it does at the park; it's a whole lot of fear, and genuine, honest commitment. There is no way to do it right but to do it all the way. And it's absolutely relentless, nagging at you until you just fucking do it.
So let me provide some context of the past year, and what has led me to this point - hovering over the edge that looks and feels like it's going to kill me if I make one wrong move. It's not, and I know that, but it's just the nature of the thing. At the start of 2020, I was 22. I was just about to finish my Masters in Education, and my last set of "classes" were fully online. I moved into a cute house with my best friends, and they were close to the middle school I was set to student teach at. So, life was lining up quite nicely already; I was flourishing in constant movement and carrying around few possessions to each new destination, very few weights. But what I was even more excited for was the aspect of being a fun-loving-20-something, living with other like-minded-fun-loving-20-somethings, ready to take on the entire world. On NYE, I dressed to the nine's and paid too much for an open bar party in Southwest DC at some funky fancy art museum; the theme was "Studio 54." I had a lineup of concerts I was heading to in the spring and summer. A two-week trip to Japan which we were so hyped to look into Airbnb's for. Clothes that I was going to buy as soon as I had enough of a teacher salary. Plans for theme parties (my friends and I go HARD for theme parties). I was just ready to do it ALL with the little money and time I could pull together.
But we know what happened in March.
At first, like many privileged Americans, I was bummed about the superficial things: my birthday party - theme: Snow Pants or No Pants (?) - had to be cancelled; the concerts all postponed, and then cancelled, one-by-one; the trip to Japan, cancelled. All the fun 20-something stuff was going down the drain. I was sad, and on a certain level I still believe I had the right to be. But I tried to balance that with the hopes of a new world on the other side of it all: how will this change us? Will we be more grateful? Will we learn to enjoy the simple company of others, a hug, a night with friends? It's really wild to look back on those early spring days of COVID; I remember sitting on the roof of my friends' house, overlooking the neighborhood, watching all the families come outside to play like they had never known a beautiful spring day before. I remember hoping that we would remember this and never take it for granted again.
After it became clear that COVID was not going to magically disappear after two weeks...or after Memorial Day...or summer...not to mention, that COVID wasn't by any means our only problem, I really shifted into survival mode without meaning to. It's like my entire mindset did a 180° - fuck the parties, fuck the fun, it's time to get serious and do the work. But where am I supposed to start? I asked this without realizing, at first, that I was being called toward a very simple answer: start at the beginning. Shed all the expectations, all the societal-normalcy, get to the root of it. Get quiet and start at the beginning. So I did.
Things got really quiet this summer - so quiet, in fact, that my other senses began to come alive and show me what I had never noticed before. Things that didn't look right, things that didn't feel or smell right. I began to shift out of relationships I never thought I'd come loose from, and question the higher values I had simply believed without a second thought my whole life. I realized, oh, shit, I'm actually not really in alignment with some of my family, and oh, this friend really isn't feeling like a friend these days. Whoa, I can feel my toes when I walk; I can sense where the sadness pulses in my body. These senses scared me so deeply and made me want to run away, I had never felt them so intensely. But still, I crawled toward them in exhaustion. I hungered for more of them - more clues to the truth and where I really ought to be in this life right now. By taking away the noise that was never mine, all other senses became a gateway to the next step. I've been walking toward that gateway for months now.
And now I'm at the arch. There's a ledge below me, and I'm being asked to give all my weight to it. I'm being asked to fully trust the process - the fear is leading me to greater things. The fear of my worries coming true, of failure, of admitting these words to the whole wide world and not being received. Of being called "weird," "dramatic," "crazy." A dear teacher and friend of mine refers to this feeling as pushing up to that glass wall, trusting that it will catch you. I see it as that terrifying bowl at the skatepark, but if I commit and give my weight, my wheels will catch me.
Here's the thing: Even if the wheels don't catch me - even if there's no glass wall after all - I'm going to catch me. I AM HERE TO CATCH ME. And that is scary. I told you that there are no spoilers here; I have yet to drop in, and I'm still too scared. That is true. But starting this blog on this random rainy, cold February weekend feels like me putting my back foot on the tail, gearing up for the fall. I'm steadying and I'm preparing.
One other thing they tell you about dropping in: Don't stand over the ledge and think over your decision, or you'll never actually bring that other foot forward. You just have to do it. The idea of this blog came to me like a flash of lightning on Tuesday. It's Saturday and I'm posting this without a second thought. It's the promise to myself that I will shift that weight and trust that something, the wheels, the wall, or my precious body will be at the bottom of the abyss to catch me.
I'm doing it, you guys, I'm dropping in. Watch me - or better yet, you go next.