I wasn’t the only one whose parents would drop us off at the rink on Fridays and Saturdays where we’d be unsupervised for hours. Oaks Park Roller Rink in Portland, Oregon was where I found myself and my friends. It’s where I had my first kiss, where I met the boy with whom I shared my virginity, it’s where I met my life-long best friend, and lied consistently to my parents about what I was doing and where I was staying.
I’ve had three pairs of skate in my life. The first set was a white Riedell ankle boot on quads (never in-lines) that came with a bitchin’ case I plastered with stickers. I was thirteen that year. They were stolen around the time I turned 15, case and all, around the time I found dance clubs instead of roller rinks, and thought going to the rink on the weekends was dorky. But I never lost my love for skating, I just wanted to dance at the club, hang out with gang members and do drugs instead. My second pair was my best friend’s skates, also white ankle boots on blue speed wheels, that she’d decided she no longer needed since she started swing dancing more regularly. I kept those for a little over two decades, it seems. I used them to commute to work in Portland when I was in college (from N. Alberta to SW 10th YWCA once), before the city was overrun with hipsters wearing tall striped socks with their vintage skates and tall bikes. I moved to Moscow, Idaho for graduate school and brought the skates. I used them to get to school and to walk my chiweenie, Nugget. She loved to run next to me while I skated, I think. Finally, I landed in my current skates. I bought them on a road trip to Oregon in 2013, just before I was diagnosed with cancer. They are fancy black ankle boots with soft outdoor wheels. I skated away from the brewery that day we got them and it was like I’d never left them. I’m 41 now, and I’m not as balanced as I once was, but about a month ago I asked Charlie if they’d seen the skates lately; I couldn’t find them. Turns out they’d been in their closet all dusty and sad for about 3 years. I was elated.
I’m just going to shoot straight – I am going through a midlife crisis. I’m taking inventory of my values, who I am, and who I want to be. I’m trying to see what is in alignment and not. I’m trying to make peace with my body, with the frequent hormonal mood swings of menopause, and I also think it’s a really shitty time to be thinking a lot about yourself when the world is on fire, when there are revolutions going on that need the energy of as many people as possible. Still, there is a lot of hard work to be done personally and in the world. One of the things I’m working on, personally, is finding joy. I’m a pro at coping with stress by investing all of my energy in work. All work, no play makes Chelsia a dull girl.
So as soon as the weather was good, and as soon as I could grant myself an hour for some time, I bolted to the park. As soon as I felt good and warmed up, I was skating backwards in the parking lot. By the end of my hour I had fallen three times, jammed my wrists twice, and scraped the palms of my hands. I’m 41.
When the weather came, I scoped the park in my back yard. The same park where – after my big surgery – I walked step-by-step, lap-by-lap, until I could walk a full ten laps without peeing my pants. It took a long time and patience, and a lot of episodes of On Being. But a couple of weeks ago, when I went out at sunset I decided – without pause – that I’m tired of not skating they way that brings me the most joy, and I don’t care who sees me being dorky, and I don’t care who sees me fall.
So, out I went with my Spotify playlist titled Bounce, Rock, Skate and of course, my roller skates.
You can’t scroll through an Instagram search without seeing people roller skating these days, and that also makes it easier to me to be seen. My style of skating is jam skating (skip ahead in the video some to see it). I can’t dance stationary while on my skates, but I like speed and rhythm and I can roll. I’m not a beginner, but I’m not going to dare put my feet on the skate park half pipe. I want to have fun, not break my wrists, so I got wrist guards.
So if you see me rolling down the street, a little groove in my step, the volume of my headphones way to high, I’m rolling in nostalgia at the rink with my best friend doing our synchronized jam routine, thinking about the boy I once thought I loved, the virginity I didn’t mind sharing, and the misfit friends who helped me find my to a lifelong joy at Oaks Park way back in 1991.