I learned to roller skate during a pandemic – and healed from trauma along the way
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Roller skating has become the “it-girl” hobby for Gen-Zers and Quarantined Millennials – and it’s all thanks to ICT Tac. If you browse the app for a minute or two, you will inevitably come across a roller skating video. In these spellbinding and strangely soothing clips, skaters glide with fluid, weightless movements set to song. They look happy and at peace, even amidst the current chaos in the world. As a viewer, you can’t help but want to capture that feeling, as well as the childlike happiness of roller skating.
So how hard is it to become an ethereal woman on eight wheels? Well, when you first put on roller skates, you’ll be more like a baby deer on a slippery patch of ice. Every step is wonky and uncertain and, frankly, terrifying. You’ll roll along the sidewalk in jolts of terror rather than effortlessly gliding. And you will fall. Oh, you’re going to fall.
A month ago, when I put on roller skates for the first time, I expected to fall. But my hardest fall wasn’t scraped knees. It was a buried hole of childhood trauma that I never expected to dig due to an innocent TikTok trend.
I wanted this story to be a silly documentation of my attempts to be a “cool teenager” at the ripe old age of 28. Instead, it turned into therapy.
The revival of rollerblading on TikTok comes from several magnetizing skaters, including Ana Coto, which has more than 2.2 million followers on the platform. The timing also has something to do with it. After all, roller skating is the perfect solo pastime for a slightly apocalyptic world.
In quarantine, many adults have returned to carefree childhood leisure to face. From puzzles to tie-dye to model building, social distancing has brought many childish ways to kill time. And that includes roller skating.
“There’s definitely been an uptick in recent months – and we’ve been working to keep up with the demand,” Impala skates CEO Matt Hill talks about the popularity of roller skating. Impala is arguably at the forefront of affordable roller skates for Gen Z and Millennials. “Even since the quarantine was lifted in the US, we’ve only seen demand increase, which shows that there is a huge movement beyond quarantine and COVID.”
Hill adds, “We love that skating helps people get through the lockdown, stay healthy and stay connected as a community during a time that can otherwise feel quite isolated.”
This rekindling of childhood passions, including roller skating, is arguably the result of abundant free time coupled with the sudden mortality shock that a global pandemic can bring. It’s arguably a coping mechanism for an uncertain world, allowing you to retreat to a place full of comforting memories and carefree happiness.
I never felt particularly related to my childhood, not to mention my childhood hobbies. I always tell people that I was raised to be a “mini adult,” with strict behavioral expectations and rules that didn’t encourage childhood exploration or typical rambunctious behavior. I grew up sheltered from other children besides my sister, never went to playgroups, and rarely saw friends outside of school.
As a child, I also lacked hobbies, apart from a stint as a dancer until the age of 9, when my parents decided not to enroll me anymore. I spent all my time with books, Barbies, TV and that ridiculous stuff 90s blurry coloring posters. I had a bike that I had never learned to ride and rollerblades that had never lost their training wheels.
My childhood memories are faint and hazy, distant and lifeless. Any memories I have are mostly gathered and triggered by other people’s stories. Doctors told me it was a symptom of PTSD, a method of self-preservation that kept good and evil out, resulting in a drop of nothingness.
But seeing women on TikTok sliding down blacktop ripped something out of me. Even at 28 and far from being a cool teen it-girl, I wanted to be like them. They are totally and beautifully free, channeling both childlike joy and oozing a powerful, confident femininity. They flow, free and happy. They are not held back by anything.
When I first got attached my Impala roller skates, I automatically felt dizzy with nervous excitement. Impalas are the skates for learning, balancing both quality and affordability, as often expensive as roller skates. Although the brand doesn’t share its sales figures, it’s been virtually impossible to find its inline skates – and has been for most of 2020.
Learning to rollerblade involves risk. You have to look completely ridiculous when you fumble to move. You have to accept the inevitable scratches, bruises and falls. It takes channeling the bravery of your childhood, something we tend to lose as we get older.
It took the gentle but relentless encouragement of a friend via video chat to finally get me on my feet in my skates. You know that moment when you have to catch up after falling on a patch of black ice? Imagine that feeling of dread distilled into every move you make.
Turns out effortless gliding like a roller-skating star takes many of effort, not to mention skill, practice and patience.
Even now, a full month in my journey, I’m far from a TikTok rollerblading villain. I’m not terrified, but I’m not a confident roller-skating goddess twirling around the sidewalks of New York. And I’m definitely not skilled enough to show off my moves – frankly because I haven’t learned any moves yet. I have just mastered skating in a straight line with proper technique and stopping without having to grab the nearest stationary object. These skills won’t exactly make me the next Ana Coto, but they do feel like progress.
But learning to roller skate was more than learning to stand on eight wheels without looking like an icy fawn. Skating gave me a real kind of purely youthful pleasure. It’s the adrenaline of being in a moderately terrifying situation mixed with a giggling, giddy childish joy that’s probably familiar to most, but somewhat alien to me.
But even though I’m only one step away from a hot mess on wheels, skating has helped me finally channel childhood. Capturing that long illusory sense of youthful wonder has helped me realize that even though I wasn’t “allowed” to be a child all those years ago, I can still reach that curious, adventurous little girl inside. inside of me that has long been denied.
When I skate, I’m totally and beautifully free, channeling childlike joy and exuding a powerful, confident femininity. I flow, free and happy. I am not held back by anything.
Find even less popular roller skates Impala roller skates, is extremely difficult due to the incredible popularity of roller skating. Check out Impala skates at the retailers below, listed by where they are most readily available.
Shop: Impala Roller Skates At Smallables$114
Shop: Impala roller skates at Tilly$94.99
Shop: Impala Roller Skates at Amazon$95+
Shop: Impala roller skates at Zappos$95
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