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Outside of some beach trips with my mom and her side of the family, I wasn't one of those kids who grew up going on family vacations; my parents separated when I was one. We didn't hop planes to go places, we didn't go on road trips anywhere – no ski lodges, no Carowinds or Busch Gardens, nothing. I did hear several times about potential trips we were going to go on, though. All that being said, I always wanted to try my hand at skiing. Every time I ever heard someone talk about it, I felt a pang of envy. I want to do that! Throughout life, over and over again, people would say, “You've NEVER been skiing?!” Well, that question doesn't exactly make a person feel good, especially when you hear it every time the subject comes up. Yes, you can hashtag this to death (#firstworldproblems, #privileged, #richpeopleproblems, etc.), but this was about fitting in and belonging, and who doesn't want that? I don't care what beat of a different drum you march to, I'm pretty sure all of us still like to feel like we belong somewhere.
My opportunity to FINALLY go skiing had arrived, and I couldn't wait.
December 29th, and I was in Snowshoe, WV on the slopes to try to learn how to ski. I was signed up for a free, one-hour group lesson that came with the ski package. I don't remember being particularly nervous about it. I had what I would consider a fairly good attitude about learning how to ski at age 40. The group of about 10 of us skated around on the “magic carpet” for an hour or so trying to learn how to stop and make turns before we were released out on our own on the slopes. Don't ask me why it was called the “magic carpet,” there was certainly nothing magical about it. Meanwhile, I could see 4, 5, and 6-year-olds whizzing by on the real slope next to us. They made it look so easy and effortless...and non-scary. I was sure I could do this, especially if they could—regardless of their center of gravity being 3 feet off the ground and weighing in at 30 pounds. (I'm 5'8”, though. I have further to fall.)
The lesson ended and off I went. I was now away from the almost flat terrain where I took my lesson, standing at the top of what looked like a VERY steep hill, and I was supposed to ski my way down it ... all by myself. HOLY SH*#!!!
I bit the bullet and went for it not knowing what would happen, but I WAS there to learn how to ski, after all, right? Crash! Get up. Crash! Get up. Crash! Frustration begins. Get up. Crash again! More frustration! I wanted to quit. I sat there and cried, wondering how I was going to make it all the way down the slope at this rate, wanting to take my skis off and walk back up the mere 30-40 feet that I had traversed and throw in the towel (skis in this case).
After I stopped crying I told myself, “I'm going to keep going. I'm not going to quit so soon after just a couple of falls (fails if you had asked me in that moment).” I got up yet again, made it a few feet, had fun in that moment when I was moving, then realized I couldn’t turn, and my “pizza slice” wasn’t stopping me, much less slowing me down enough to feel safe or comfortable. Guess what happened. I fell...again! I was sitting there and this teenage-looking girl slowly skied by and asked if I needed help getting up.
“No, I can get up. I need help getting down the mountain.”
She smiled and went on her way, but I was serious. I smirked at the situation, got up and tried again. Fall! Fail! I sat there, cried some more, really hard this time. That was it! I had had ENOUGH!!! This was supposed to be fun, after all. I wasn't having fun. Nothing even resembling fun. I wept (no exaggeration – I'm not prone to hyperbole). I tapped into a well of emotion. The frustration of falling and not getting the hang of it cracked me open. I felt sorry for myself, for all I thought I had missed out on growing up, tons of emotion around all the times I felt like I did not fit in when I was a kid (and sometimes still do), and feeling like a BIG FAT FAILURE! And to think, I asked for this experience. Be careful what you wish for, right? You don't know what you don't know, I like to say.
Sure, we all have failures here and there, large and small, some of us more than others. It's a natural part of life...but I was special in this case. No one knew what I felt like, what I was going through, how much I hurt inside – forget about the one butt cheek I landed on repeatedly that was causing me physical pain. No one has been through this, right? Just me. I don't think I could've felt any sorrier for myself. I took my skis off and walked the rest of the way down the mountain to the lift, mad, sad, grumpy, just plain miserable.
I eventually got to the bottom of the slope and had to take the ski lift up to get out of there. I had never ridden a lift before, so I didn't know how to do it. I asked the guy if I had to put my skis on in order to get on the thing, and he gave me the wrong answer to that question. I'm not sure he even looked at me when I asked him this; he mainly just shook his head yes and mumbled out his “Yeah.” I grumbled and cried some more while I nervously put my skis back on. I was pretty scared in this moment. I managed to walk, which I do every day no big deal, down the slope in the ski boots, carrying my skis. Having to get on this unknown thing that moves while on these strange slippery sticks and move with it...well.
I got up to the lift spot where they were nice enough to slow the seat down for me so I could easily get on. I could feel their sympathy for me, or was it pity? I began riding up. Did I mention I'm afraid of heights? I rode up into the trees, getting further away from the ground, grumbling and crying some more, holding onto the seat and trying to breathe and redirect my attention to something else in order to not totally freak out. I was almost at the other end when I noticed the passengers in front of me grabbing a bar and lifting it over their heads. Huh?! What is this??? There was a bar overhead that I could've lowered in front of me for a sense of safety and protection?! Un-be-liev-able!
I attempted to get off the lift and...crash. Shocker, I know. I crawled out of the way, took off the skis and stomped away to turn in these sticks of death. I was done...until the next day, when I had a group snowboarding lesson. Lord help me!!! I thought, It can't be as bad as today was, RIGHT?!
To hear the next part of this story, you will want to read Part 2 ...
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