Skating through adolescence

| Staff Columnist

I had the privilege of going roller skating with some of my friends in St. Charles a couple of weeks ago. When they invited me, I had the image in my mind of the skating rinks I am used to at home: 12-year-olds tentatively inching across a dirty, greased sheet of plastic set to the soundtrack of cheesy oldies music and the admonitions of its crotchety old owner. What I found, though, was a group of people my age and older skating in circles at alarming speed.

It made me wonder about my reluctance and the hesitance of our generation to enter into a sort of conventional adulthood and responsibility.

A lot of the skaters there were crazily talented, skating backward and executing spin-jumps whose names I won’t pretend to know. On top of their ability to do things I would never dream of being able to do on a set of wheels (like getting around the rink without stumbling or falling down completely), some of the people there actually had their skates tricked out with striped laces, Nike Air shoes and even drag-racing under-lights. The whole Friday night skating thing obviously wasn’t something they did every once in a while, but, rather, they had made circling that track over and over again into a lifestyle.

In the same way, I know from my own experience that I’m terrified to think about the concept of stepping into adulthood (and by adulthood I mean the Southern Illinois version I’ve been raised with: job, house, marriage, kids, etc.). The thought of taking on such responsibility terrifies me, which I think seems to be pervasive in our generation. We have so many things to divert us from entering into that situation, though, that we can just hop into the rink and skate, going nowhere but in a circle. This, in turn, becomes a lifestyle, and not just a diversion on our way out of adolescence.

For the most part, people are getting married later, having children later, contenting themselves with living a lifestyle that for a long time before us would have been considered, for the most part, a kind of perpetual adolescence. It’s like we’ve created the time of deferral, pushing back what has been taken as normal for so long, so we can do what we want and maybe not have to worry about going out completely on our own or gaining financial independence from our parents.

When I say that, I don’t necessarily mean it is a bad thing. I know for some weird reason, I have a tendency to get lost in thought when I’m skating. Maybe it’s the cyclical nature or something? Either way, though, there’s something to be said about this period of deferral in which many of my older friends have found themselves. Maybe it helps younger people find out who they are before they have to jump into the real world (although I’ve always considered everything in my life to be as real as the world can be).

I don’t pretend to have the answers. All I know is that when my dad and my grandpa were my age, they were married, owned a house and possibly had a child on the way (once again, that could be Southern Illinois, but maybe not). Even the thought of marriage terrifies me, and I can’t imagine having such a link to another person. I just want to be able to find myself before anything else.

I guess as far as I’m concerned, I am content that I have this rink that I can cycle through for a while and learn a little bit more about myself. We’ll all unlace our skates when we’re ready, but in the meantime, I think I’ll worry about keeping my balance here and avoiding any collisions with the guy turning a triple axel over there.

Gabe is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at gcralley@gmail.com.