ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
On Mondays, we bring you our series THIS I BELIEVE.
And today our essay about personal conviction comes from the icon of skateboarding, Tony Hawk, whose accomplishments include a successful touring road show and one of the best selling video games of all time.
Here is our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON reporting:
Tony Hawk's commitment to his work is intense. He says he rarely attended school activities like dances or homecoming. He skateboarded instead. He got his first board at age nine, went pro at 14 and he's never stopped. He says skateboarding is his means of expression.
Here's Tony Hawk with his essay for This I Believe.
TONY HAWK reporting:
I believe that people should take pride in what they do, even if it is scorned or misunderstood by the public at large.
I have been a professional skateboarder for 24 years. For much of that time, the activity that paid my rent and gave me my greatest joy was tagged with many labels, most of which were ugly. It was a kids' fad, a waste of time, a dangerous pursuit, a crime.
When I was about 17, three years after I turned pro, my high school careers teacher scolded me in front of the entire class about jumping ahead in my workbook. He told me that I would never make it in the workplace if I didn't follow directions explicitly. He said I'd never make a living as a skateboarder, so it seemed to him that my future was bleak.
Even during those dark years, I never stopped riding my skateboard and never stopped progressing as a skater. There have been many, many times when I've been frustrated because I can't land a maneuver. I've come to realize that the only way to master something is to keep it at, despite the bloody knees, despite the twisted ankles, despite the mocking crowds.
Skateboarding has gained mainstream recognition in recent years, but it still has negative stereotypes. The pro skaters I know are responsible members of society. Many of them are fathers, homeowners, world travelers and successful entrepreneurs. Their hairdos and tattoos are simply part of our culture, even when they raise eyebrows during PTA meetings.
So here I am, 38 years old, a husband and a father of three, with a lengthy list of responsibilities and obligations. And although I have many job titles -CEO, Executive Producer, Senior Consultant, Foundation Chairman, Bad Actor -the one I am most proud of is Professional Skateboarder. It's the one I write on surveys and customs forms, even though I often end up in a secondary security checkpoint.
My youngest son's pre-school class was recently asked what their dads do for work. The responses were things like, my dad sells money, and my dad figures stuff out. My son said, I've never seen my dad do work.
It's true. Skateboarding doesn't seem like real work, but I'm proud of what I do. My parents never once questioned the practicality behind my passion, even when I had to scrape together gas money and regarded dinner at Taco Bell as a big night out.
I hope to pass on the same lesson to my children someday - find the thing you love. My oldest son is an avid skater and he's really gifted for a 13-year-old, but there's a lot of pressure on him. He used to skate for endorsements, but now he brushes all that stuff aside. He just skates for fun and that's good enough for me.
You might not make it to the top, but if you are doing what you love, there is much more happiness there than being rich or famous.
ALLISON: Tony Hawk with his essay for This I Believe. It should be noted that his success has made his very name a brand now. Although he did turn down the option of Tony Hawk Pasta.
To see all the essays in our series, and to submit one of your own, we hope you'll visit our website, NPR.org, or call 202-408-0300. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.
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