I’m a big believer in conquering your fears. We all have things we’re reluctant or scared to do. To me, what matters isn’t leaping over the challenge itself — a headstand or handstand, making your way up a climbing wall, or maybe even running your first marathon. Of course, there are health benefits to these endeavors but the real personal benefit, to me, is in knowing that you have the power to stick to something that’s difficult. If you can indulge me more, all of that leads to a brief history of me as a reluctant skier who ended up attempting downhill racing.
Out of all the common winter sports for kids, my kids largely prefer skiing. Since we ski so much now, people often assume that I grew up skiing but really I did not. I skied a few times in Vermont, and then my family took two trips out West, one when I was in High School and the other during college.
My first real ski day at around the age of 10 ended as a embarrassing disaster. Eager for some time off, my parents dropped my siblings and I off at a local mountain and headed out for a long lunch. I had no idea what to do with those skis. No one had ever showed me how to turn, nor how to stop. My older brother Chris had skied and was pretty good, and my younger brother Jamie chose to just shoot right down without turning. My sister Kiki made her way too. Petrified, I tried to mimic the more experienced skiers and make my way down.
Chris then suggested that everyone take on a trail called the “Face.” Arriving at the top of the trail, I realized from whence the name Face had come. Steep and composed of sheer ice, the Face proved to be the most challenging trail on that mountain. With no idea how to get down, I fell to the ground and pretended to be injured. This option presented itself to my 10 year old brain as the only safe way to get down. (Taking my skis off and sliding down could I guess have been a less dramatic alternative.) Ski Patrol promptly sent a wagon and I was rushed down the hill. Arriving at the medical clinic, I quickly told the medical personnel that I was feeling much better and good to go. I walked out of the clinic, leaving him with a quizzical look on his face.
Imagine how much my siblings heckled me over this episode for years!
If you had told me at that moment that many years later I’d be an entrant in a ski race, I would have responded that you had the wrong person!
Fast forward many years, many children and quite a few ski trips. My kids have now made their way through ski school and have taken up racing. This year I joined them. After a few days of running gates, Hedley suggested I throw myself into the ring. I was petrified. Minutes before the race, the instructor spotted my expression from under my goggles and exclaimed “Melissa is frozen.” With age comes even greater fear.
When I think about it, there really is no reason for me to be in a ski race. I’ll never really compete for anything since I’m too old. And I’ll never really be fast. I guess I did it, then, to prove something to myself. That I can take on my fears, and get through difficult things. That I have the will-power to not give up.
Here we are after my first race. Since I had never raced, I had the lowest number, which basically means I was the worst person in the race. I was happy with my number though, since it’s my birthday (January 20), my Dad’s birthday (also January 20) and my lucky number.
Taking off, I felt like I was going so fast. I lost my balance around one turn, and almost fell, but continued until the end. I was so out of the trajectory that I thought I would be disqualified, but luckily not. At the end, I learned I had gotten a flechette, the first level medal. The other adults in the race were much faster then me, and all my children beat me other than Marielle, who fell. One decision faced me: would I race again?
Two days later, I was back, somewhat addicted already to ski racing. My number was better since I had one medal under my belt. This time, all of us finished. Again, all my kids beat me other than Marielle who was only a 20th of a second behind me. She was so happy to have the same thing as Mommy. Kids tend to look at things differently than we do. Marielle sees a ski medal like a new piece of jewelry.
Looking at these pictures, I realize how silly the whole thing was but I’m also proud. I’m proud not because I’m a great skier, which I am not, but because the little girl who could not make it down an icy mountain ended up attempting downhill racing.
Since we got back from our trip, we’ve had some big challenges. Marc is still job hunting and one of our children has had a rocky time at school. Although I’m so concerned about Marc and this child, and have admittedly shed some tears next to my buddy Patty on the yoga mat, I still feel positive. I feel that I know that I will get through it all. I wonder whether the ski racing has anything to do with that?
In the past, I never understood folks who wanted to run a marathon, do a triathlon, or climb Mount Everest. Now I do. There’s something about these challenges that bring we humans to our very highest level of confidence and faith. When we believe in ourselves, and push ourselves to do better and be better, we realize can truly overcome anything. The process of trying fortifies us, giving us the belief in ourselves that we need to survive the tough times life throws to us all. Part of weathering the storm is realizing that our lives might not end up being exactly what we imagined, as Patty reminded me yesterday, but they will be good.
Write in below with a fear you’ve conquered and thanks so much for reading.
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