I learned to ski last week.
The older we get, the deeper our neural pathways get carved. That’s why it’s harder to learn new things as we age if we don’t make a practice of it. Even when you do practice, it can still be tough to unlearn what you have learned about how your body moves and what it can do.
(Shoutout to everyone who heard Yoda’s voice in that last sentence. You are my people.)
This makes sense. When we’re kids, we move with less fear. Part of that is the resiliency of young bodies. Part of that is also the lack of prefrontal cortex development that marks childhood and adolescence. If you’ve ever asked a kid, “why did you think (that ridiculous behavior) was a good idea?” The answer is, they literally did not think. They don’t have the forethought that adults do. It can be maddening, but it’s excellent for learning to do things like slide down an icy, snowy mountain on two sticks strapped to your feet.
But if you were a sedentary kid like me, you missed a lot of opportunities to develop athletic prowess. Being from the South, winter sports were definitely rare. I learned to ice skate when I was 9 and loved it, but by the time I was a teenager, I was so heavy and uncomfortable in my body that I actively avoided new physical adventures of all kinds. I even swam in shorts and t-shirts during that era. If swimming, my most beloved outdoor activity, was hindered by self-consciousness, no way was I putting myself out there with something new and possibly humiliating.
“Look at that fatso trying to ski. What a loser.” — the voices in my head, probably.
God, I spent a lot of time waiting for my life to begin back then.
I wish someone would’ve told me—and a legion of teens inundated with skinny culture—that it was okay to be you and go live life. That we were already beautiful and worthy. That everyone fell down, and it was okay to do so, and anyone who laughed at you for it was, in fact, the problem.
These days, I give not one damn about embarrassment. These days, I’ll willingly make a fool of myself for a variety of reasons. Try teaching middle school. It’ll delete your self-consciousness quick.
We were already beautiful and worthy. That everyone fell down, and it was okay to do so, and anyone who laughed at you for it was, in fact, the problem.
So, I didn’t go into my ski lesson at all concerned about looking silly. I knew I would fall down at least once. I also knew I had enough base training to get myself up and maneuver with all the gear on, no matter how heavy and awkward it felt.
I also didn’t go into the lesson with any expectations. If I didn’t enjoy it, nothing would be lost. If I did, then cool. I would gain a new hobby. If it was somewhere in between, also totally fine.
There is freedom in releasing expectations of outcomes. In a world where we’re so goal driven, where we compare ourselves to strangers on social media all of the time, being able to simply experience a situation is very, very liberating.
The lesson lasted all day. It went very well. I enjoyed Brandon, my instructor, and he seemed to enjoy me well enough, too. We chatted about music and the physics of motion while we rode the lift again and again. He assured me when the lesson was over that I had the skill to become quite a good skier. So, even though I had no expectations, I was very pleased. It had been fun, which is all I really wanted. I made some runs on my own, even more pleased when I got all the way down the steeper hill without falling once on my final go.
The next morning, I geared up and headed out again. My plan was to practice on the hills I’d done the day before, and then work my way up to some bigger greens. I remembered what Brandon had told me about keeping my hips forward, flowing with my breath, and pivoting my feet while my upper body faced down the mountain. The smallest hill went okay. A bit shaky at first, but I got going well enough to try the bigger green. (Greens, for non-skiers, are the easiest level slopes on a mountain.)
That’s where things got tough.
The point isn’t how I struggled, (mostly with keeping my legs underneath me). The point is the tunnel of concentration I faced down. On every run, I coached myself. I gave myself reassurance just like I do any client who’s trying a new move. I came to a stop when I wanted and encouraged myself to keep trying. I did this several times. On the last two, I fell fairly badly–enough to shake me up, not enough to injure me.
Those falls brought me to a choice: call it a day or push on.
In my old life, pushing on was the only option. It was how I survived, how I measured my success–my worth, even. I could grit my way through anything. I was strong enough, dammit. No one would dare question me. No one would wonder what that loser thought she was doing.
But that’s not how I show up anymore.
I show up to life with confidence that I don’t need to prove. I don’t have to flex to convince anyone, myself included, that I belong. I am Skye. And I am A Bit Much and quite Enough, thank you.
So, I released that old compulsion to keep going. I picked myself up after a rough fall, got my legs under me, and skied to the bottom of the mountain. Then, I racked my gear and went back to the lodge.
I don’t have to flex to convince anyone, myself included, that I belong.
I had no guilt about stopping. I didn’t feel like I’d failed. I had not failed. I’d done the thing. And that was enough. I could call myself finished without wondering if I should’ve done a bit more.
Although I’d planned to ski all day, my afternoon was far from ruined. I got to spend two hours hiking with Lincoln in the snow. Gazing up at the gorgeous Vermont mountains, watching my beloved boy run wild and free on the trails, and time alone with myself were a perfect alternative plan. I learned something new and validated my being by doing something I know I love. Perfect balance, if you ask me!
What is something new you’d like to try this year?
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Honestly I have done alot adrenaline junkie things but Honestly I would love to repel out of helicopter at at least 200 feet of the ground I want to feel the rush I have done this at much lower altitude so the higher the better
The exciting nervousness of trying new things! Thanks to a very gung-ho dad, i tried lots of things I never would have dared otherwise - skiing, Rock-climbing, sailing, kayaking. I was otherwise a timid kid, afraid to try new things.
It’s great you can shrug off that fear as an adult. I’ve found it amazingly invigorating as I hurtle towards 50. In the last few years I’ve done so many firsts/new things I’ve almost lost count - but this year will be starting my own business!
Thanks for sharing your adventures 💖