Girl on Wheels

Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

“If I were you, I’d take the white ones. They’d look nice with your purple trucks.”

Chris, the sales assistant at the skate shop, was helping me choose some wheels for my new skateboard. As he set to work assembling it, I plopped down next to my cousin Tiara on a nearby beanbag.

“If I were you, I’d be so afraid,” she said.

“Of what?” I asked.

She gave me a look as if I already knew. And I did. The moment I got home, I would be in for a shouting match with my notoriously strict mother. I knew I wasn’t allowed to ride a skateboard, let alone buy one.

“What’s with your mom and skateboards anyway?” asked Tiara.

“Well, she doesn’t want her ‘little girl’ to be in such a dangerous sport and, God forbid, break a bone.”

I understood where my mom was coming from, since skateboarding is definitely one of the most dangerous sports out there. Yet ever since I was younger, I’d been drawn to those riskier sports. Whether it was football, hockey, or snowboarding, I yearned to join them all at some point. My mother’s answer was always the same: “No, too dangerous.” Years later I couldn’t help but wonder how good I could have been at athletics of just that sort, until one day I decided it was time to stop wondering and turn my thoughts into a reality.

“I’m not afraid of broken bones,” I continued, looking decisively at Tiara, “I’ve wanted to do this since I was in kindergarten. Mom thinks I’m going to spend $100 on a skateboard, fall, and never want to ride it again. Sure, I’ll get hurt, but that’s part of learning and it’s worth it. I know what I’m getting myself into.”

“I’m going to put in some colored bearings to make your wheels pop,” said Chris from across the counter. There it was. He’s almost done. Should I really be doing this?

“Where are you even going to practice? She’s definitely not letting you go to the skate park,” said Tiara, shaking her head.

“Probably because she thinks everyone there is dropping out of school, but I know for a fact that’s not true. I’ve been there and she hasn’t,” I said.

There are, of course, people who give skateboarding a bad name. But not everyone who skateboards is like that — not even the vast majority. Skateboarding takes dedication, and the skaters I have encountered are among the most determined people I’ve come across. I’ve talked to people who’ve broken both legs trying to do a 720 gazelle flip, the most difficult skate trick on the book; the minute their casts were off they were right back at it. That’s really something to admire.

At a skate park, you meet people with all sorts of different stories. You see a guy in the baggiest pants imaginable bonding with a guy in the skinniest jeans imaginable. Skating brings all sorts of people together. Unity and understanding: those qualities are what it’s all about, beyond the best and most challenging feats and flips.

“But won’t you feel awkward being the only girl there?” asked Tiara.

“There are other girls. But that’s not the point. Anyway, I want to be different. This is my way of being unique, just like my mom always tells me to be.”

“Well, looks like you’re all set,” said Chris. This was it. It was finally mine after years of waiting.

Walking out of that store, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I’d done the right thing. But then I remembered that I have dreams that need to be chased, both within that skate park and well beyond. I knew I wouldn’t regret my skateboard.

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