And here I was again: I’d been here before – standing at the top, my heart beating, palms sweating and knees buckling before me. How was I going to do it? How was I going to make it down the hill?
Downhill skiing is one of the only things in life that repeatedly frightens me, over and over, and to which I keep going back to. As the anxiety builds higher as I ride the chairlift up the mountain, I wonder to myself, who ever thought that going down a mountain strapped to two planks is fun? And why do we keep doing it?
The answer: a challenge. It’s not often I find myself truly scared in life. After taking off on the most grand adventure of my existence thus far, it seems that nothing could scare me: jumping out of planes over mountain ranges, jumping off cliffs over swirling rivers while strapped into a bungee cord, scuba diving alone at night with sharks, or holding not fewer than three live scorpions whilst in the Malaysian jungle – you would think that skiing would be a piece of cake for me, right? Wrong.
The challenge of skiing keeps drawing me back, time and time again, even though I continually have panic attacks on the mountain. But the funny thing is, after going this last time (my thirteenth time in my adult life – I don’t count the times spent as a child crying on the hill and refusing to move as “real” experiences. Actually, who am I kidding. I have spent a lot, if not most, of my adult experiences crying on the hill and sliding down on my butt) I actually noticed a change. And the funny part is that I didn’t, at first, perceive the change to be within me: I truly believed that the MOUNTAIN had changed.
Okay, so rational thought and the laws of physics tell me that this can’t actually be possible. I get it. I’ve skied Sunshine a grand total of three times, so I’ve done all the chairs and most of the runs and have a good sense of what to expect. But this time, I could have sworn to you the runs were less steep. Surely there was an earthquake recently that stretched the mountain? C’mon Kenna.
It was until I actually considered it that I realized my perception had changed. Somewhere along the lines of the past five years, I’ve actually gotten better. And the changes have been so tiny and intangible, that I didn’t even know they were happening. I had grown ever so slowly but surely, that my entire perspective on the steepness of the mountain had changed.
That got me to thinking: this happens to us, every day, in everything that we do, but often we don’t have the opportunity to reflect upon it and measure ourselves in the exact same situation, especially as adults. The mountain is always there. It’s always the same. The only variable is us.
Do you ever go back to childhood places and think, man, I remember this place as being so much bigger/better/more beautiful? It’s rare that you get to capture this same feeling with only a year or two bridging the first experience with the next experience. But I did with Sunshine.
This simple, yet profound reflection on my life has made me realize the importance of pursuing challenge in everything I do – it’s the only way I’ll grow. In my career, my relationships, my volunteerism, my hobbies – I need to keep pushing the envelope and make myself do things that scare me. Or I won’t grow. And my perspective won’t change. And I’ll be forever skiing the same terrifying, monstrous and anxiety-inducing slope for the rest of my life.