Someone’s skin tells a more powerful story than that person can, more often than not. Marbled skin stretched flawlessly over tight muscles and thin bones, rough skin piled over fleshy arms and tree trunk-like skeletons. Skin with imperfections, pieces missing or scabbed over, scars folded over old incidences have many stories to tell. Stories of those few seconds someone’s story got an illustration.
With ease, I could recite the tales behind each of my scars, the lessons learned, the trials overcome. For each scab, I could spin up a slightly humorous, slightly bitter anecdote on that trick I still haven’t overcome or that hill that remains too steep. Every story on my skin has the same thesis, a lesson for the children to learn: I am a failure in the field of longboarding.
When I began skating, I considered myself a failure. To this day, I consider myself a failure. What else can I call myself when I go out every day to kiss concrete? It took time and a community to learn that failure isn’t failure, it’s a strategy. At the bottom of a hill with the Missouri River over my shoulder, other skaters bragged about their imperfect elbows and ragged knees. At that moment I realized that failure is a core value when you can’t cheat, it should be embraced. Embraced and evolved into patience and persistence. These things, I learned by skating without even realizing it. Mindsets like that are slippery to handle and impossible to fake. This failure is communal as well. It fosters compassion and empathy. When somebody eats it halfway down a hill I feel that. I feel their pain because I know I’ve made that same mistake before and have been dazed on the ground in their position. Everybody fails together; I’ve built up others with advice and they’ve done the same to me. Overcoming one small failure can be exponentially positive. Early on as I learned, an outside observer could see the gears click in my head as I beat small obstacles and gained the bravery to break the next ones. Failure may be the long term plan but in these moments I temporarily came out on top, and these moments ran rampant. These small successes in an uphill battle only pushed me to roll that boulder faster.
In viewing failure as a technique, I’ve slowly isolated my success rate and my momentary emotions. Failure is essential to growth and my constant failure here has built me up. Calm, collected composure has been instilled in me and my role in a community has gifted me a habitual sense for everyone’s tender humanity. I see scars and know the owner had a cut, had a scab, and has overcome a failure with determination. The defects that paint me physically have put a positive, concave correction on the glasses through which I see my world.