Finding Friends Through Vulnerability

My Comfort Zone:  Growing up in a small town in Cleveland, I was a typical outdoorsy kid.  I loved to fish, mountain bike, hike, and explore the wilderness with my friends.  The town is called Chagrin Falls, and it is as close to a bubble as one can get.  This was all I knew growing up.  I had never been to a big city, a surf town, or anywhere even remotely different from that small town with which I was so familiar.  So, it came as quite a shock when my parents, seemingly out of nowhere, announced to me and my brother that our family would soon be moving to sunny San Diego.  At first, I was ecstatic because I assumed San Diego was going to be the magical place it was made out to be in so many movies I had seen.  However, when my family actually made the move to Southern California, I could not have felt more like a fish out of water.

A Big Change:  After a couple of weeks in San Diego, I realized that this new city’s culture was drastically different than the culture in which I grew up.  I was about to start class at my new elementary school, and I was terrified that I wouldn’t fit in.  Everybody I had met so far seemed to be either a surfer, a skateboarder, or both.  So, my parents suggested that I join a summer skateboarding camp.  I was not too keen on the idea at first, since I had never stepped foot on a skateboard, and the summer camp was already halfway over.  However, I wasn’t given much of a choice, and before I knew it, I was in the car with my mom on our way to sign me up for camp.

Anxiety Kicks In: By the time I linked up with the other campers, everybody seemed to know what they were doing.  Some kids were practicing in the bowls, some were practicing dropping in, and some were watching a few of the counselors give a seemingly entertaining demo.  I decided to try my luck at dropping into one of the quarter pipes.  It didn’t go as I’d hoped, and I ended up on my back with an unshakeable feeling of embarrassment.  In that moment, I knew that I would never skate again because I wouldn’t be able to handle the embarrassment of wiping out again.

One More Shot:  While I was sitting at a picnic table, waiting for camp to be over, some kid slightly older than me walked over and asked if I wanted to try skating the bowls with him.  I told him that it would be impossible for me, and that I was quitting skateboard camp anyways.  For some reason, he kept persisting that he would be able to teach me to ride the bowls, and finally convinced me to join him.  I walked over to one of the empty pools with him, and was immediately terrified by the seemingly vertical eight-foot drop (pictured here).  I watched my new buddy roll around in the bowl for about ten minutes before I finally mustered the courage to give it a try.  I started at the base of the pool, and began confidently pumping towards the daunting eight-foot wall, feeling like I finally had the hang of this skateboarding thing.  However, my confidence was soon shot down as I ended up on my back again, with my skateboard crashing directly into my tailbone.

A Surprising Outcome:  I laid there for a moment with my eyes closed, as I wanted to avoid the imminent ridicule as long as possible.  However, when I opened my eyes, there were two kids holding their hands out to help me up.  I couldn’t believe they weren’t laughing at me.  Instead, they were giving me praise for being able to take such a hard fall, and getting back on my feet.  For the first time all day, I finally felt like I did something right.  Rather than ending the day sitting by myself at a picnic table, I ended the day by telling all the other campers about the brutal slam I had just taken.  I instantly made a whole new group of friends, and couldn’t wait to get back to camp the next day.




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