I had gone with a friend of mine to see his young son learn how to skateboard. The skateboard park scene was as you might imagine — mostly teens and some young adults exercising their own acts of defiance against the forces of gravity and friction. Pretty impressive displays.
And then I noticed this one fellow who had all the agility and abandon of the others, but clearly could have been their father. He swooped over the ramps, sometimes his arms flailing the air for balance, but no less adventurous in his attitude.
At one point, he whirled to a halt in front of us, flashed a wide grin, and adeptly flipped the board with his toe into his hands. We learned he was a litigation attorney, taking the afternoon off to get some air. No, not golf, not tennis, not biking, but skateboarding.
“I used to skateboard when I was younger, but then, life and work catches up with you,” he said. “I decided to take it up again, not because I’m good at it — I’m actually pretty rusty — but because of what it does for me.”
What it did for him, he explained, is get him totally out of his element — not just physically, but also in terms of putting him to a place where he has to learn from others, most younger than him, and confronting him with the unavoidable prospect of failure.
“I’m a better attorney for it,” he said. I suspect he is an attorney who better understands the fears his clients may have, the need to be inventive and versatile, maybe just to smile a little more broadly.
There is something to be said for excelling at a hobby or pursuit, as well as seeing our off-time as a chance to exhale a bit. Still, a life course like that seduces us to get complacent or to narrow our field of view. Or simply to avoid the hard choice to start over with something else.
Widening the lens of what we allow into our lives brings all kinds of new things into perspective.
Crazy stuff, this skateboarding. You can really get bruised up — knees, elbows, egos. Why would you do anything that nuts when you just got your life on a familiar path?
He smiled as he skated away.