An Unexpected Fate

“He thought of the incomprehensible sequence of changes and chances that make up a life, all the beauties and horrors and absurdities whose conjunctions create the uninterpretable and yet divinely significant pattern of human destiny.”

~ Alduous Huxley, Island

To learn how to cook, play an instrument, massage, dance, and speak a second language: these are the skills I one day want to acquire in my life. It seems like a reasonable list. The items on it are the last survivors of a much, much longer one.

Final cuts included things like mastering sleight of hand; performing various gymnastics moves; becoming an adept carpenter; learning to smith; and the odd eccentric fancy of sailing and airplane flying. These interests didn’t get clipped from lack of interest. Just the honest appreciation that my life was not steering me toward them; nor was I prepared to course correct for their pursuit.

There were, of course, countless other interests that sparked briefly and went nowhere. The internet can be thanked for that. It smooshes our faces into the pinnacles of human achievement. All day, every day, can be spent in slack-jawed admiration of the incredible feats that humans perform; a dangerous availability really.

I used to feel an understandable desire to do those things I watched. Many a vow was made to master any number of talents. Those vows were as short-lived as internet history. But sometimes, when the flashy skills of an anonymous internet icon failed to manifest within me, I felt vaguely let down. As if I wasn’t talented enough. Untrue.

The simple fact is that we are limited by time, far more than ability. Though it may be difficult to admit, the inertia of our lives determine where our time is invested. And so too the hobbies we can foster.

We do not always masterfully direct our own fates.

On the other hand, I once saw a slackline video of Andy Lewis, and the inspiration it sparked eventually lead me to wander the literal heights of Europe with an international medley of highliners. Go figure. Sometimes there is room in our lives for something new. For me, in 2010, there was room for slacklining.

Other times room has to be made before a new skill can grow. This is often unexpected, and inherently uncomfortable. The replacement of familiar habits with new talents is inherently uncomfortable.

Sometimes this room is made when your bike is stolen.

On a hectic Friday night in a beachside town, the schoolies were mobbing, and I was chilling. I was smoking in a van, catching up with some old friends. Then, when I exited to be on my way, I discovered that those fucking schooly kids stole my bike.

I remember the angry, anguished rush of emotion. It twisted tightly in my stomach. I frantically looked everywhere thrice, circling the van again and again as if I missed seeing a big bike leaning on it the first and second times. Desperate hope eventually gave way to seething resignation. And that was that.

A few days later, I picked up a skateboard off a bum friend: a nice, wooden Venice, CA longboard. Here I was, all the way in Australia, and this board had an American flag deck. I’m not overly sentimental, but signs are signs. It was a quality board for a decent price, so the deal was done.

Over the course of three days, my primary means of transportation transformed from bike to board. It would come to be a fantastic evolution.

I’d never have bought a skateboard over a bike because I didn’t know how to ride a board. Nor would I ever have bought a skateboard while owning a bike. It was only the combination of having a bike and it being stolen that brought me to owning a board. Thus I learned to skate through no willful action on my part.

Losing the bike created a vacuum in my life; a need for casual transportation. And that necessity pushed me into a new skill. I thrived on it. I’m grateful for my new found skating prowess to the point of being grateful that my bike was stolen. That’s how much I enjoy skating these days.

Now biking may stir up thrills on a distant mountain ridge line, or on some scenic desert track. Skating can stick me with adrenaline on any hill in any suburb. That’s probably because there are no brakes on a skateboard. That reckless absence of deceleration suits me. The full-body engagement of balance suits me. Practice on a board suits me.

Putting music in my ears and the board under my feet is a daily ritual. It’s exhilarating riding down hills. It’s exhausting riding back up. And it’s meditative when finished. That’s adrenaline, combined with endorphin, emphasized by music. Yeah. Feels nice.

It makes me fit. It supplements my balance so complements other hobbies like surfing and slacklining. It’s fun. Nothing more to say.

It hasn’t taken thirty years to realize that I can learn anything I devote the time and attention to. And it hasn’t taken thirty years to realize that I cannot learn everything that catches my interest. When it comes to what I actively pursue, I’ve learned to be picky and discard most dreams like frivolous candies that have little lasting value.

And in less than three decades I’ve formed an awareness that sometimes I don’t have much choice in what becomes of me. Sometimes the world’s forces decide what I learn. With that in mind, I keep myself open to the opportunities it presents. I don’t derive my self-esteem solely from the hobbies I scribe on the to-do list of my mind.

That way, when the tides of fate pull me from those held aspirations, I’m not bereft of self-worth. Nor do I disparage myself a failure. And when I’m pushed onto unexpected shores, I can become what they’d make of me without feeling like a fraud.

Thank you for reading.

-C

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