Way back when, when I was a skater, I always meant to get into freestyle skating. What you know of as skateboarding today is what is known as street skating. In the evolution of skating, it survived, and freestyle (the more flatland, trick oriented style) went the way of the dodo.
I was never too interested in the rip and tear, skate or die way of thinking. So, I always told myself I'd get a deck from one of my lifelong heroes---Rodney Mullen. Rodney was different. He was into skating---the best there was, in fact. But he was also smart. Like, 4.0 in college smart. When all the other skater interviews had them talking about how much they loved Dog Vomit or some other unlistenable hardcore punk band, Rodney listed Stiff Little Fingers---and Vivaldi.
Here's Rodney a few years ago, giving a TED TALK. Turns out that he's the darling of silicon valley, according to WIRED magazine.
But they've covered that---I don't need to. I want to talk about that deck. This deck:
It is amazing to me that I couldn't scrape up the $40. to get one of these back then. Amazing that even though I got a new board---an Alva Eddie Retegui---I didn't get this one. And now, they are impossible to find (actually it's so popular(ish) that PP re-released a collector's version a few years back, which I also don't have. )
But this isn't exactly about the piece of wood (though, if I found one, I'd likely buy it. and if you have one, and sent it to me, I'd be ecstatic.) It's about the past, and how the present becomes the past, and traps our dreams in it like bugs in amber that's become petrified.
I can't even say that I'm aiming for "chase your dreams today, because tomorrow, they'll be unattainable". It's not about that.
I'm talking about how even if I got one of these, it wouldn't change my past. I couldn't use it. Nor would I even want to take the time to learn! How do I know this? Because I bought a newer version of his board (the Enjoi version) about 10 years ago, sure that I would relearn skating at the concrete park down the road. But... I simply didn't. I eventually gave that board away. It was useless to me. It simply sat around reminding me how much money I'd wasted on... nothing. And I knew my friend would USE it. It would enable actual skating. I've got no problem with nostalgia, or putting an old deck on the wall because it reminds me---but this wasn't a relic---it was a new piece of equipment, meant for a sport that I was no part of.
I guess this is where I'm aiming to get to---let them go. I've spent too much of my thought-life over the years thinking about getting one of these, or a flatland freestyle bike (my true love back then) and spending my nights alone in a parking lot with an iPod, learning to ride like THIS. I have a tennis court down the street from my house (in the same park as that skatepark, ironically) that's perfectly flat and well-lit at night. It would be perfect. I still---to this moment---think about that. But what Matthias (watch the video) does doesn't happen by chance. That's hundreds, thousands of hours of falling and failing and whatever else. I know, because I once did it (a very, very poor imitation of what you see there, but certainly a distant relative).
But here's the thing. This is not a criticism of the activity, because I do love it still. But an observation of how it is, or would be for ME. The woods where I ride a mountain bike do something for me. Something relaxing. A type of meditation. Looking back on my life, I can see how it HAD to end up this way. The walks in the woods as a kid. The playing in the creek. And yes, the BMX. And the road bike.
But I'm not that person anymore. I don't want to do tricks to please either myself or others. I don't want to beat my head against a wall to learn. I wish I could DO what he does, but not enough to put in the time to do it.
And each of these things are choices I have made. I stopped skating on purpose. I sold my BMX bike to buy my first mountain bike. On purpose.
What other ridiculous dreams am I wasting time holding onto? And what about you? What's your Mullen deck? What's your flatland bike?
I'm tiptoeing onto dangerously cliché territory here, but it's truly part of me and I can't abandon it just because of that. Yoda told Luke Skywalker in the Return of the Jedi movie, "do or do not do---there is no try". Now I can get back to that earlier inspirational message. Still want to learn to play the guitar? Always meant to start a band or sing at a coffeehouse? Do it! Or let go of it. If only I could take that advice. Why do I know that Mullen was in that magazine and gave a TED talk? Because he inspires me---in my life today. In the things I do today.
My friend Mutt once told me (google Mullen and you'll understand) something that's stuck with me. I was taking up fly fishing (which I never actually practiced ) and feeling so inspired by A River Runs Through It, and that whole mythos, and Matt said that the trick in life is how to take the spirit of those times, and apply it today. Without it being a ridiculous modern-man-wearing-Hemingway's-hat kind of throwback scenario. (I may have added that last bit myself).
Which brings us back to those re-released Mullen decks. And how hard they are to find. And our generation trying to recapture... a little of the... Gloria (sorry, channeled Bruce for a moment there).
If "those were the best days of [your] life", give some good hard thought to why. Why do you live the way you do now, if you were happier then? Because society tells you to? Because you have to work, to pay for the car, that takes you to work, to pay for the car, and on and on and on.
I'm not saying to run away from adult life, exactly. We have to do things we don't want to do. But we do them for a reason. Don't reach the end of your life saying "I should've spent the money, taken the time, lived in a van, told her I loved her". Don't hold it back anymore. Make it come---or let it go.