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My Failures Don't Define Me. That's My Electric Skateboard's Job.

Photo by Chase Sutton / The Daily Pennsylvanian

When I first stepped onto Penn’s campus three years ago, a narrative about my life started taking shape, but I felt like I had no control over it. Every club rejection, bad exam grade, broken snap streak, and stain on my once brilliantly white Stan Smiths felt like a hammer tapping away at the marble sculpture of my identity. Even when I did succeed at something, good moments felt like transient blips in my story, stringing my self-esteem along just enough to make me feel like I could take a risk again. Then, inevitably, I would fail. After countless trudges through this cycle, my failures stopped seeming like events and more like glimpses of who I truly was: a failure. 

Sadly, I know this is not a unique phenomenon. In our high-pressure environment full of competition between people who used to be the best and brightest around, it’s hard not to feel like you’re drowning. However, I’m lucky to have found something that separates me from this defeatist narrative: my one-horsepower, custom built, Boosted-Arbor camber decked longboard with a modular rechargeable battery and seamless integration with a handheld controlling system.

Since I started riding my futuristic platform of gliding excellence, I haven't even come close to self-identifying as a failure. I self-identify as goofy-footed. I self-identify as one of Nikola Tesla’s chosen few. I self-identify as a descendent of Aladdin blessed by Hermes. 

The sidewalk cracks that my peers scuff their shoes on? They don’t exist for me. Under my wheels, Penn’s streets are paved in gold. I duck and weave past potholes and missing bricks like they’re nothing more than my father’s disappointment or my transfer rejection from Stanford. No, I don’t wear a helmet. I don’t fear death anymore. The fact that I haven’t learned to do an ollie has nothing to do with a lack of skill or the impracticalities of my board on uneven terrain. Obstacles I would have to ollie over are really just physical representations of my emotional obstacles, which were obliterated when I ascended to sk8 god status.

Some people think my slab of incomparable technological superiority is just a “fancier electric scooter.” At them, I scoff. Count my wheels: one, two, three, four. Two times the wheels and two hundred times the clout. The scoot squad has nothing to do with my way of life. See the handle that protrudes from their pathetically slim footboards? It’s literally a crutch they rest on to compensate for their lack of perfectly calibrated balance and failure to construct their own identity through a bitchin’ set of wheels.

My mode of transportation — nay, translocational art form — allows me to transcend my failures, the broken technologies of the past, and, of course, the traffic laws that govern bikes, cars, and pedestrians.