How a Total Jerk Helped Me Overcome Fear

My parents took me on my first ski trip when I was six years old. There were a number of unusual challenges on this first ski trip – unexpected poverty, the inability to move in my ski suit, and one highly questionable meal choice (discussed in detail in a previous blog) – that made me not a big fan. But it wasn’t just the first trip. For many years after, I hated skiing. Like sit at the bottom of the ski slope crying and moping kind of hatred.

I am what some would call, a control freak. The idea of rocketing down icy slopes, amid frozen tree limbs, in the dead of winter, truly seemed like a version of hell. I wasn’t having FUN. I was just trying desperately NOT TO DIE.

My siblings immediately took to skiing like they’d been born to do it. They just pointed their skis straight down the mountain, tucked in their poles and full-speed kamikaze’d down the slope. (This is pretty much how they do everything, by the way, and as much as I shake my head at their ‘recklessness’, I secretly admire their boldness.) I, on the other hand, defied the laws of physics to NEVER point my skis down the hill.

skiingGod bless my poor mother who spent each of these ski trips by my side, patiently waiting as I inched my way down the mountain. Since I refused to take lessons with strangers who would probably make me ski faster and therefore die faster, my Mom (after probably wanting to murder me for years) finally convinced me to abandon the snowplow/pizza pie method and ski the “real” way with parallel skis (YAY! No more pizza pie thighs! If you’ve snowplowed, you know of the burning muscle pain to which I refer). To her disappointment, I never went any faster, I just skied perpendicular to the mountain – back and forth – STILL never pointing my skis down that hill. Sorry, Mom.

But all that ended one day. In one ski run. Mom and I were riding up the top of the mountain in a quad chair with a man and his son. My Mom struck up a conversation with our lift-mates. The boy was about my age at the time, about 14 or 15, I think, and his proud papa was raving about his ski prowess. I did a mental eye roll and immediately tuned out of the conversation. But then proud papa went on to say how he felt that girls simply could not be successful athletes because they don’t have it in them to be aggressive or competitive, especially not as downhill skiers. Mr. Jerkface now had my full attention. My jaw dropped. I was admittedly not an aggressive skier, but damned if I was going to let that (insert expletive here) jerk tell me I COULDN’T be. So after I closed my gaping mouth at his outrageous ignorance and insensitivity, I set out to shut HIS mouth. I skied the crap out of that slope. Faster and better than his little golden boy. It was like I was possessed. I’d never skied like that before. And man, I was scared, but compared to the lethal combination of anger, stubbornness and indignation, fear had no chance.

The crazy thing is, when I let go of my fierce grip on control, I found I actually really liked skiing. Almost as much as I enjoyed showing that jerk that a girl could do whatever the hell she wants to do.

Had I not been pissed off at Mr. Jerkface’s insult to me and to girls everywhere, I may never have let go enough to truly enjoy skiing. So thank you Mr. Jerkface, wherever you are, for helping me discover that I love to ski. You freed me from fear and I will be forever grateful. But you’re still a jerk.