Humans of Villanova: Andrew Lee



Elliot Williams



Humans are afraid to fall. We want the glory that comes with achievement but tend to shy away from the pain that comes from scraping a knee on the rough pavement. 

However, one freshman thinks otherwise and embraces every fall. He has fallen more times than he can remember.

“I’ve lost count,” he says. “But I know that if you’re not falling, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.”

It is beautiful to watch Andrew rollerblading. He glides with an Olympian perfection that grabs the attention of everyone walking to class. Some point at him, others just stare. Either way, Rollerblade Kid is impossible to ignore.

“Here he comes,” one student says routinely to another. “Watch out.”

It’s true, a student walking across campus who is distracted by a cellphone might miss the free show that glides from south to main campus Monday through Friday.

For freshman Andrew Lee, rollerblading is living. It is his passion through which he finds joy in times of sadness and solace in times of stress.

“Most people on campus only get to see my orange skates,” Lee says. “But these other ones hold a special place in my heart.”

He opens a large duffle bag and pulls out a pair of purple, aged and beaten up roller skates.

“These are the ones my dad had.” Lee shows a picture on his laptop of what his father’s skates used to look like before Lee repainted and repaired them. “I found them during my freshman year of high school in my garage.”

Of course, Lee used kid-friendly roller skates as a small child before finding his dad’s roller hockey blades. He shows me a picture of him at age five in a Florida driveway, where he is wearing oversized pads, grinning ear to ear.

However, Lee didn’t discover his love for roller blading until he found his dad’s skates. These skates also helped him fall for the first time.

“I said, ‘Hey dad, can I try your skates and see how they fit?’ I skated on them and busted up my knees and hands a few times.”

Lee put on his old pads, even though they were too small, and he fell in love. He started looking up videos on how to skate and went to the local skating rink with his girlfriend.

“All these kids were skating a lot faster and better than me. I’ve always had this competitive edge to me, so I wanted to be at their level.” 

That competitive edge has helped Lee learn to jump over obstacles and skate backwards. 

“I went up to this guy at the rink who was skating a bit slower so I could catch up to him and asked how to skate backwards. He goes, ‘It’s just like skating forwards, but backwards.’”

With this being the extent of the instruction Lee received, he taught himself the necessary transitions, though Lee is still trying to master the move to this day. 

During Lee’s junior year of high school, he used some cash he had saved to purchase the Twister 80s urban roller skates. The orange 80mm wheels allow him to maneuver the streets and sidewalks with much more accuracy.

Lee lives in Good Counsel Hall and has earned the title, G.C. Rollerblade Kid. It is a name he wears with pride, despite some negative feedback he receives from peers.

“The most hurtful reaction I get is the laughter. But I like to approach it as this— at least I’m making somebody else laugh today.”

It is already difficult enough to fit into the Villanova mold without wearing skates, Lee says. 

“Someone who sees me skate is gonna go tell their friend, ‘I saw this crazy kid rollerblading today!’ Hopefully they’ll say I was good at skating,” he says with a laugh.

One time, Lee skated to a friend’s apartment on West Campus, only to be told by the upperclassman that next time, he should leave his skates on South.

Still, Lee doesn’t let anything stop him from skating. In fact, his favorite reactions are from visiting prospective students who can’t help but stare in amazement at the orange blaze gliding through campus. 

Lee’s story is all too reminiscent of ‘Slomo,’ the March 31, 2014 documentary by New York Times’ Josh Izenberg. Slomo, or Dr. John Kitchin, was a work-obsessed, materialistic San Diego doctor who ditched his medical career to rollerblade every day. 

Slomo equates skating to a spiritual experience, or flying. Lee feels the same way. On lonely or stressful nights, Lee says he rollerblades for 30 minutes at a time, going to a place others would call his own imagination. For Lee, this place is very real and therapeutic. 

But Slomo is in his 70s. Lee is 19. Perhaps by skating with passion, Lee has tapped into some mantra of wisdom. Perhaps skating has matured Lee beyond his years.

Lee does seem wiser than his freshmen counterparts. He speaks as if he is one of San Francisco’s “energy roller skaters,” covered in The Atlantic’s documentary by Daniel Soares. The film, released June 12, 2015, captures the meditative elements of roller-skating in the heart of San Francisco, where people from every background imaginable come to skate together. 

While Lee skates alone to class, he does recommend finding friends to skate with. During the shooting threat to Villanova’s campus this past fall, Lee and his friend Alex skated around and checked to make sure all the buildings were secure.

“We hoped that if anyone tried to shoot us, we would be a bit faster than they were on foot.”

Lee reveals a large scar he has on his knee, a souvenir from a fall he took when he first got to Villanova. He does so with satisfaction, as if the fall made Lee a better skater, friend and all around person. 

“Don’t be afraid to do what makes you happy,” Lee concludes. “Roller blading makes me happy. It honestly doesn’t save that much time. But it’s the joy I get from doing it.”

Advice rolls off Lee’s tongue as if he is the senior in the room. 

“I’d also like to add that my total hit count [pedestrians he’s collided with] is zero. Knock on wood.”


Andrew’s Top 4 Tips to Roller Skating:

1. Don’t be afraid to fall. If you’re not falling, you are not pushing yourself hard enough. You will learn how to fall safely as you continue to skate. You basically want to roll and not extend your arms so that you don’t break a wrist.

2. Learn to skate with both feet. Switch which foot is your anchor—the anchor is the foot you put the most weight on.

3. Take good care of your skates. These skates are machines with metal balls that allow me to roll down hills. I’ve taken skates apart and have seen what they’re made of. People take it for granted and assume skates are unbreakable.

4. Find friends to skate with. It’s more fun with friends, because you can choreograph and weave in and out with them.