Reminiscing about the past got me thinking. From about the age of 15 to 18, one thing owned my life - inline skating. I thought that was quite ironic, especially as having never suffered a bad injury during this time, inline skating was how I ended up breaking a leg.
When I was 15, I'd just recovered from a couple of serious operations and been brought some inline skates as a birthday present (had taken me a long time to convince my Mother to get them, as she figured I'd break something and hurt myself....go figure!)
There was a new wave of skating around at the time, called 'aggressive skating'. This involved performing tricks on inline skates, such as jumping off steps, ramps, walls etc and grinding rails, kerbs, ledges...and so on.
There was a small group of us who every Saturday from 8am (god forbid I even know what that hour looks like now!), could be found skating around a pre-West Quay Southampton City Centre, frequenting McDonalds, the Guildhall, the train station and a 'secret spot' nicknamed White Ledges by fellow skaters.
There was the Captain, my oldest and closest friend. And 2 new friends, Merlin and OG. Together we would terrorise the streets and shoppers of Southampton, until a skate park was built at Mayflower Park. Up until now, we had travelled infrequently to Southsea Skate Park (which for a group of lads from Southampton held all sorts of tribal issues!).
This new skatepark revealed a step up in talent required. The most adaptable to this was Merlin. Anything he lacked in natural skill/talent, he more than made up for with his ability to achieve far more than mere mortals could hope for. His combination of enthusiasm, fearlessness, hard work and speed of learning has blessed him until this day. There is something magical about what he achieved and continues to achieve. Even then he could go that one step further than the rest of us, when it came to really wanting what we all would strive for.
Myself? Well.....I had some natural talent, but I never made the most of. I always had something; fear, timing, any excuse, whatever...there was always an excuse for never maximising what I could of become. A favorite mantra of my teachers was, 'he's very intelligent, but just doesn't apply himself'.
This pattern would repeat itself through most things I tried in life. Anything I wanted to be great at, skating, riding, surfing.....I was never as good as I wanted to be and I didn't like that fact. What was I afraid of? Failure? Slowly, over the years, its dawned on me, there is no shame in not being 'the best' at something, to strive purely for that purpose, means you lose the reason you had for starting in the first place. As long as you try your hardest, there is no shame. It is harder to try and then learn to live with your limitations, than not try at all. But that fear should never put us off trying.
There is no shame in failing, but there will always be questions if you do not try. As Merlin himself once said to me, 'Nothing worth having, ever comes easy'. It's a lesson we can all learn.