I can still remember my first skateboard. Yeah… we tried skateboarding in old southern towns too. I had convinced my mom to buy it during one of our weekend trips to the Florence Flea Market. It caught my eye as we walked the market, but my mom had already given her famous “when we get out of this car” speech. So, I was aware that I should probably not ask for anything. But this skateboard… I remember it glowing. Now during the hour long drive there, I had decided to maybe ask for the black, Patrick Ewing shoes I had caught a glimpse of only a couple weekends before; and there was a really cool, yellow pencil covered in times tables I had been thinking about as well. When I saw the skateboard though, nothing else mattered. I took a chance, “Ma! Can I get that skateboard?” After what seemed like hundreds of questions from her asking what I knew about any skateboarding and if I would promise to be careful, she gave in. It was a good day… until we got back home.
In St. Stephen, back then, we didn’t have many paved roads. And where we lived wasn’t the ideal place for skateboarding, so I couldn’t wait to go visit Granny so I could finally practice my skateboarding on the side road. It wasn’t too far from her house. It was the road where the Jones’ lived. Seriously… the Jones’ lived on the little side, paved road. Interpret that however you will. But, the road, it wasn’t a very long road. It was a dead end, which minimized traffic, making it perfect for neighborhood activities like bike riding, go karting, skateboarding, etc.; and I would be there on Sunday, after church, for dinner. “Yeeaaaah boy!” I couldn’t wait.
On Sunday morning, before getting dressed for church, I made sure to place the skateboard by the front door. That way, I wouldn’t accidentally leave it behind. During church, I suffered from spiritual ADD. My mind was not on Christ; it was on the skateboard. At Granny’s, I hurried through dinner. And finally, it was time to take the skateboard for a spin. Now, keep in mind, I’m about 8 years old. I’ve never been on a board in my life, but I’m young, daring, and ready for fun. I have no helmet. I mean… absolutely no protective gear, but who’s thinking about protective gear? In retrospect, I wasn’t thinking at all. I was still dressed in my Sunday best, my black and white, floral printed dress, white tights, and black patent leather shoes with velvet bowed straps across the top. I took off with a light jog. I dropped the board, and hopped on. The board started to wobble. I immediately lost control, and I fell face first onto the paved road.
It’s been twenty-five years, and I often think back to this incident, wondering if maybe the dirt road would have been a better choice. As I mentioned earlier, it was not ideal. To my knowledge, no one had ever tried skateboarding on the dirt road before; but it was fairly smooth, very little rocks and only small branches and debris from the trees. I wouldn’t have been able to go as fast as I did on the pavement, and I would have definitely gotten a lot of strange stares. The fall… it wouldn’t have been as bad. Now don’t get me wrong, falling on dirt ain’t fun either; but I’ll take it over concrete. And maybe, just maybe, I would have eventually graduated to the pavement.
Not ideal. No one had ever tried it before. Rocky and filled with debris. Not fast or the most immediate route. Strange stares. I gave up on skateboarding a long time ago, but I’ve been faced with this dilemma time and time again. The path that’s been paved may be the smooth, most immediate route, but it doesn’t work for everyone. We all have our own battles to fight. Circumstances that make things seem easy for others and impossible for us. It maybe finances, family situations, or any other obstacle that gets in your way. I’ve learned to stay encouraged and to continue traveling in the direction I want to go. The dirt roads won’t get you there as fast, and a lot of times they don’t even have signs. It is the uncharted path. It won’t be easy, you’ve got to figure it out.
So be encouraged young athlete. Junior college is just the path you have to take. Be encouraged working mom. You too can create the space necessary to recognize your dreams. To everyone of you reading this, “Be encouraged, and believe!” Keep your eyes open. Evaluate every opportunity. Go get what you deserve. Every paved road isn’t the one you want to be on. Remember that side road, the one over by Granny’s house. It lead to a dead end.