This I Believe

Jonathan - Houston, Texas
Entered on December 5, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

Skateboarding Has Saved My Life

The morning air is cool and crisp. My every breath is visible for a split second before it evaporates into the horizon. A smile crosses my face when I realize that I have the entire skatepark all to myself. It’s 7 AM on a Saturday and, while most young adults my age are confined to their beds from a long night of partying, I am standing at the top of a concrete jungle, ready to become a river flowing between ramps and through various pathways. This is my heaven.

If the words “grow up” crossed your mind while reading that first description, you wouldn’t be the first to suggest it. If the phrase “waste of time” popped into your head, it wouldn’t come as a surprise. I started skating about 7 years ago, when the stress of school first started to take its toll on my nerves. I flew through elementary school and half of junior high without ever having to study, but the second half of junior high slapped me hard and sat me down in front of text books for three or four hours every night. Then social pressures and the normal concerns of an adolescent male were thrown into the mix and I had a recipe for disaster. Without any creative outlet or method of alleviating stress, I landed in a perpetual state of anxiety and worry. This is when I first picked up a skateboard – my blessing in disguise.

Everyday, after finishing my school work, I was out in my driveway trying to grasp the key to a new maneuver or gain consistency with other ones. Some of my fondest memories are of me walking back into the house with bloody shins, scraped elbows and a smile on my face because I had landed a new trick. When confronted with the choice between calling skateboarding a sport or an art, the clear category for me is art. School was a sport for me. My teachers were my coaches, my classmates were my competition and the game was arithmetic or chemistry. But skateboarding was the complete opposite of a sport: its liberating quality is that there is no textbook example of it. There is no right or wrong way to go about it. You are the coach. You are the competition. Skateboarding is based on artistic expression and visual interpretation – it’s a dance, an opera, a poem or even a silent film.

I see other youths in college drown their brain cells in beer or suffocate themselves with marijuana because it helps them deal with the stress of college life. I’ve never been tempted to take these routes because my catharsis is my skateboard. You can look at the risk of injury and easily call me crazy, but when I put on my headphones and cruise around the skatepark, I realize that it’s one of the only things keeping me sane. Skateboarding truly has saved my life.