Spoiler alert: You’re most likely to experience failure when you try something new. I fell a lot over the weekend. I went left instead of right, backward instead of forward. I even almost died. Outlined below are the failures that came out of my first-ever ski trip…
…with an emphasis on the “almost-dying” part.
I went skiing for the first time last weekend in Spytkowice, Poland. I was super excited to not just try out skiing, but also to see the Polish countryside and not speak English. It was a great trip overall. I had a lot of fun, learned a lot of new Polish expressions, and made some new friends. I also almost had a run in with the Grim Reaper himself. For real.
You see, being from Florida, snow is new to me. The dynamics and physics of snow + skis was completely foreign. I couldn’t figure out how to control my movements. The instructor tried to help me, but well, I just couldn’t be helped. While my two other “first time skiing” friends (those bastards knew how to ski — I swear they must have had Olympic medals stuffed in their luggage…) drifted across the snow gracefully, I was trying my hardest to inch forward and not slide backward. I started to feel bad that I seemed to be holding everyone back. I tried to just mentally convince myself that I was an Olympic-grade skier, a pure-bred polar bear, Queen Elsa of Arendelle. But that only seemed to make it worse. I took several bad falls and everything was aching.
I got really anxious each time the instructor called my name and told me to go. Eventually he said to me, “Come on, Leisa. It’s much harder when you go really slow. Go faster. Don’t be scared. Just go a little faster and you’ll see how much easier it is!”
Well okay, Mr. Ski Instructor Guy…
I leaned back to pick up my speed a little. And I guess he was right. I glided forward effortlessly.
“Great, great! See? Now push on your left leg… Leisa, left leg. Leisa, left… LEFT LEG. YOU HAVE TO TURN.”
I put all my weight onto my left leg and leaned forward. I turned abruptly. And picked up speed going in the opposite direction.
“LEISA, SLOW DOWN!”
I was rapidly approaching the “thou shalt not pass,” roped-off edge of the skiing plane.
“LEISA, STOP! STOP! RIGHT LEG! SLOW DOWN! TURN! STOP! NOT THAT WAY!”
I flew through the roped-off boundary like a character in a bad Disney Channel movie. I screamed. And then planted my butt in the snow as I lurched toward the steep dip that dropped into the forest some ten feet below. I stopped just three inches short of falling down the cliff.
I sat there and laughed. Laughed. And I couldn’t stop. Not even when the instructor threw off his skis, ran over to me, and asked if I was okay.
Apparently that’s common when you’re in shock.
So after I calmed down…
It took me another 25 minutes after that incident to get all the way down the hill. Everyone in my learning group ended up taking their leave and traversing the hill on their own. So I was the last one to finish. I was the last one to leave the ski grounds, even.
I was suddenly really embarrassed. I must have looked really stupid falling down, especially because I was smiling through it all. I must have looked like an idiot when I almost flew off the side of the mountain. I must have sounded like idiot both before and after the fact, when I screamed and couldn’t stop laughing respectively. And then I finished last. I felt really, really embarrassed.
I texted my friend after I changed out of my wet ski suit, “Oh my god, I hate skiing. What was I thinking…”
I told her about my near-death experience and blamed my disdain for the sport on that. And when I got ready for bed that night, I thought to myself, “Yeah, I’m definitely not going back up there again tomorrow. It’s not worth it.”
But I felt a little uneasy. Why is it not worth it? What made it not worth it?
And so I began the process of trying to figure out why I didn’t want to try again tomorrow. The first thing that came to mind was my near-death experience. But that didn’t feel right. It was jarring in the moment, but I felt fine about it afterward. I thought it was hilarious, actually. Then I thought about how I was tired and sore. But that also didn’t feel right. Maybe it was because of the language barrier. It was kind of hard to understand the instructor after all…
In the end, I realized that the reason I didn’t want to try again was because I was embarrassed about how bad I was.
Embarrassment ain’t no good reason to give up!
It would have been perfectly fine to not try again if the reason were because of that near-death experience, or because of aching muscles, or even because of the language barrier. But I decided that it was unacceptable to skip out on skiing because I was embarrassed about how bad I was at it. So at 10am the following morning, I was dressed and ready to get on the ski lift. I fell a lot throughout the course of the day. But I lived, and I got a lot better at maintaining control. After lunch, I even went by myself without the instructor. And I did it again and again. I was the last one to leave the ski grounds. But this time it was only because the sun had gone down, the lift had been powered down, and the personnel told me to go home.
I had improved a lot, and on the last few solo runs I made, I really enjoyed myself. I came to realize that one of the things I like most in life is the process of improving. I like going from floundering to swimming, seeing the results of my persistence and hard work. I also saw firsthand the benefits of teachers acting as guides to, and not gatekeepers of, knowledge. Finally, through this experience I also reinforced my belief that motivations make up a man. Embarrassment is a result of paying too much attention to your perception of other people’s opinions, and so I lived out my belief that we shouldn’t let other people run our lives and sway our minds.
I’m really happy to have gone through this experience and failed so much this past weekend. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m excited to see what my next failure is going to be. I can only hope that it won’t involve another brush with death.