The fear of falling thousands of feet. The fear of being attacked by an angry mob of deadly wasps. The fear of a twelve-inch needle. The fear of being buried alive. Of tornados. Of rats. Of spiders. Of snakes.
Oh, how life has its share of scary.
Yet, somehow, these fears all pale in comparison to one:
The fear of the Beginner’s Ski Slope.
The world is a ball of shimmering wintery white. White interrupted by annoying blurs of grey and black and red. These are the statewide colors of Winter Coats 2015, it would seem. They fly and land like the ladybugs on the windowsill of the chalet.
And skiing is a skill these coat-wearing Indianans are born with.
Here I stand:
The classroom could not hold them all; Little People have exploded onto tree, hill, lodge, gravel muddy parking lot. Little People born with skis attached to their feet.
And this, my friends, is the top of the world. This is the top of Bunny Slope.
I am bundled in borrowed gear: a too-small winter coat, too-big winter pants, little fragile 7.5-sized feet locked tightly inside the torturous, the infamous, the impressively uncomfortable, ski boots.
“Ready?” he asks.
“You can do it!” she cheers.
“Just remember to stay low.” he instructs.
Friends with good intentions and yet, I hesitate.
It is that moment before—exhaling, not inhaling—taking off, not landing—that causes my jaw to clench, my stomach to tighten, my unhappy trapped little feet to press hard against plastic boot.
Ready, get set, go.
“First time,” I told the small child I accidentally knocked over.
“First time,” I said–adding a click of my tongue and a knowing nod for dramatic effect–as I tried to explain to the middle-aged gentlemen stuck behind me why I was waiting and waiting and waiting to grab onto the towrope intended to jerk me back to ground level.
“First time,” I said to the instructor–Trish–half-mountaineer, half-human–whom my desperate friends paid (bribed?) to try to help me.
But truth be told?
This was trip #2.
As soon as my friends disappeared to some scary, unnatural-sounding thing called a chair lift, I ran into the chalet and hid by the brownies and nacho cheese dispenser. Just close enough to a window to keep a lookout into the white world beyond without being seen.
“Mom.” I started before she could say hello. “This is awful. I am horrible. I mean. No. Really horrible.”
“And please don’t tell anyone that I am hiding in a ski chalet and calling you.”
It turns out there’s not much Mom can do for you when you suck at skiing and are hiding from your friends by gatorades and lasagna-to-go.
Oh, the woes of adulthood.
Here I stand:
On top of a bunny slope called 24-years-old. A bunny slope that, right now, seems larger than life itself.
Preparing for a take off. The exhale. The go.
Feeling like my shoes are a little too big, my coat a little too small. Feeling like my parents are far, far away and my friends are anxiously waiting for me at the bottom.
Here I stand:
Walking into a music classroom for the very first time. (Assistant) Coaching my very first basketball game. Auditioning for grad school. Starting a new relationship.
Deep breath. Eyes ahead. Back straight. Lean forward, but not too far forward. Crouch low, but not too low. Relax, relax, relax. Ready, get set, go.
I will fly, I will soar, I will tumble my way into what’s next. I will grab onto the towrope. I will close my eyes. Exhale. And I will pull myself back to the top again.
But only metaphorically. Of course. For your safety and mine, I’ll give the slopes a 365-day hiatus.
In the chalet, we sit around a square table the size of a chair. We are surrounded by dying ladybugs and soggy humans drinking beer. We talk about which Shakespeare play is our favorite, how Macbeth is a hot ticket right now, how the service could not be any slower and how dry our eyeballs are from sunshine. We laugh about that one time and make plans for backpacking and hiking and camping trips to come.
Time has stilled. I breathe easy–steady inhales, steady exhales.
In spite of my new collection, bruises, wounded ego, and all.
And now, with the fears behind me, I can’t help but think: Oh, the adventures that await. One exhale. One take-off. That’s all it takes.
Was I really that scared? Is it really that easy?
One ready, get set, go.
And look at the places you’ll land.