This past February, I turned 33 years old and for the first time in my life, I went skiing. Now, it may strike you as strange that someone like me – so obsessed with mountains – had spent 33 years never descending a snowy mountain slope in one of the most exhilarating ways. However strange it may seem, it was true.
So the weekend of my 33rd birthday I decided to change this. I ventured to Flagstaff, AZ – about 3 hours north of my home in the Phoenix metropolitan area – and spent the next two days enjoying the city of Flagstaff and learning how to ski.
It started with a lesson. We learned the basics: how to wear the boots, how to attach the skis, how to move forward, how to move sideways, how to turn on flat ground. Then we moved to more advanced skills: how to descend a small slope, how to turn while going downhill, how to stop yourself, how to speed up, slow down, turn slowly, turn quickly.
After about an hour of this we hit the bunny slopes! I started going downhill moving left and right to negotiate the other people on the slope and then I lost control. I was gaining speed and making a “pizza” with my skis wasn’t slowing me down, so I did what felt like the best thing to do at the time was – I let myself fall. I stopped about one foot from the snow blowing machine. It was awesome!
I continued to ride the bunny slopes for that day and the next and on my second day even took the lift to a beginners slope up the mountain. I only ended up falling that first time and I loved every minute of the entire experience.
The thing that struck me the most, however, was how much I enjoy beginning something new. I love the feeling of not knowing how to do something and then slowly and incrementally gaining skills that lead to first just becoming somewhat capable and then maybe later becoming quite skilled. My love of this journey of development and exploration is likely why I’ve spent so much of my life as a student, and why I decided to pursue higher education.
I used to get anxious when I’d reflect on this quality I possessed. For example, I used to switch majors when pursuing my undergraduate degrees, then when I finally picked a discipline I later decided to switch to a new field entirely, I’ve left jobs to pursue something new, I’ve moved all over the country, I’ve ended long-term relationships, I’ve changed my diet, I’ve started hobbies and then abandoned them. I felt like I lived in a constant state of flux with no real constant to hold onto. I felt like I’d never “land”, like I’d never know what I wanted to be “when I grew up”.
But through all of that change I finally realized what the constant was: I was still me.
And over the past few years since I’ve posted last, I’ve discovered more about who that person is. I’ve focused on improving my mental wellness and I’ve learned to love me for me.
I used to base my worth on external means of validation, on my accolades, my accomplishments, how other people recognized me and my value. Now I’m content with who I am and focus more on my relationships with family and friends and my general well-being.
While I still have work to do, I love that I love to be a beginner because that allows me to constantly be challenged and to discover more about myself and the world around me. It also encourages me to continue my pursuit of deeper knowledge about my chosen craft because I can incorporate information and skills from a broad range of disciplines as I work to become an expert at being a beginner.