By Nathaniel Sprouse | October 22, 2015
I started skateboarding at age 12. It’s something I absolutely love to do. I began with the basics: ollies, kickflips, and riding switch. I devoured the details of every VHS tape of Bob Burnquist and Bucky Lasek I could find. In 2010 I had to take a break from my beloved rolling Popsicle due to a torn rotator cuff and a shredded leg. I was traumatized from my accident and took a year sabbatical from the sport.
In 2011 I slowly started pushing again, trying not to remember my face coming within inches of the tires of the moving truck at the bottom of the hill I had been bombing. I started tech sliding again; I was even going on campus cruises with friends. I was getting my confidence back. I did whatever it took to not think about what could have been instant death that day in front of the dorms.
Flash forward to 2012 and I’m in Brazil for the first time. I had won some scholarships to study in São Paulo for a summer term. I would be visiting a new country, a new continent, and speaking a new language for an entire summer.
“I’m sorry, you said you wanted what to eat?” I had it all planned out. ‘Turkey, tomato, cheese,’ I repeated over and over in my head. It was my first time ordering lunch. Even after two years of Portuguese classes I found myself stumbling over my words just to order a sandwich.
The woman behind the counter waited patiently for my answer to her existential inquisition into my preferred cold cut. She was polite in that awkward, I-don’t-understand-most-of-what-you’re-saying kind of way.
“I uh… I’ll have a have a turkey… tomato, and uh… cheese sandwich, please…” I mumbled for the second time, the line behind me impatiently growing into a 40-foot long sea monster, preparing to devour me.
“We don’t have that today.”
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t. I simply walked away from the counter, crushed by the sharp wits of the Lady in White behind the gates of the castle’s countertop. It was my first Portuguese duel: I had been defeated.
I didn’t eat lunch that day. I was so nervous to even attempt to order another sandwich that I just chose not to eat. I hadn’t planned anything else; I just wanted my turkey, tomato, and cheese sandwich, but I told myself it wasn’t worth trying to order something else. That night, after I (successfully!) ordered a pizza I reflected on my most recent failure to communicate.
“Turkey, tomato, cheese.” It was so easy, why did I have such a hard time figuring out how to order a damn sandwich? The answer came while staring deep into the eyes of my fourth slice of pepperoni pizza. I had called the scenario at the lunch counter a failure, but a failure necessitates an attempt. Unfortunately, I can hardly claim that my attempt at stuttering through my order was an honest attempt at receiving that exquisite cold cut. I did not try, and because of that failure to speak myself into action, I looked a fool and had an empty stomach for most of the day. All I needed to do was try; yet I chose not to.
Flash forward to 2015. I’m in São Paulo again. I’m now fluent in Portuguese and working abroad for the second time. I went from not being able to order a sandwich to working in the areas of education, translation, and interpretation.
I have Fridays off, so every Friday I go to a park here in São Paulo and spend my day skating. After my accident in 2010, I got my sliding technique, my ollie, and my confidence back. But I knew I wasn’t really pushing myself. I hadn’t tried anything new in a long time. A few weeks ago I decided it was time to try something new.
I spent two hours trying to learn how to nollie. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and it was something I hadn’t done in over 10 years. I forced myself to relearn the trick, and while it may not be huge for most skaters, landing nollie after nollie was a victory for me. I had tried something new and succeeded. I put my effort into action and it paid off.
Success is not nailing a nollie on your first attempt.
Success is not ordering a turkey and tomato and cheese sandwich in perfect Portuguese.
Success is about speaking yourself into trying and turning those words into action.
Success is ordering a damn turkey tomato and cheese sandwich in flawless Portuguese while crushing a switch nollie in front of people at the park after a million and one failed attempts at doing so.