So it's been a while. It's been a hard, painful while since I had surgery 6 weeks ago. What a journey! There have been moments of intense darkness: when I woke up for the first time after surgery. When I had debilitating anxiety before every therapy session for the first 4 weeks because of the excruciating pain I endured every time we had to bend my leg. When I felt alone, regardless of all the family, friends and love surrounding me. But there were also moments of brightness: when I held a baby goat and felt it's curiosity. When I received hand-written letters in the mail -- I could feel the concern and the hope. When I took my first steps, two days ago. It has been a scary, enlightening, and frustrating 6 weeks of countless peaks, pits, and plateaus.
With this injury (as with many) has come so many questions, concerns, doubts, considerations. What if I can't get strong enough to return to the level of skiing I was maintaining before my crash? What if I get back on skis and am stricken with doubt, crippled by fear? What if...what if I can't even ski again? Though it's unlikely, it is a real possibility. And then...what?
Although I have deliberated on this before, never have I done so so thoroughly. I have many passions apart from skiing: singing, climbing, ceramics, to name a few. I attend classes at the University of Oregon every spring term. I write in my journal almost every day: drawing, collaging, contemplating. I try to write a post on my blog at least once a month. I play piano whenever I see one. I paint, although badly, as often as I can. I love working with children, and helping others. Cooking, planning and socializing are a few of the things that keep me sane. Creating, moving my body, curiosity and connection are the things that I find most fulfilling. But, right now, my heart lies in the mountains. The snow. The speed. I want to race.
If it doesn't work out, I know I'll be fine. I can be happy, regardless of my chosen occupation. But that's just the thing: I want to have a choice. I want to be the one who decides when I'm done ski racing. I don't want my body to hold me back, or the Ski Team to make that decision for me. I want to leave on my own terms. And I don't think I'm ready to do that yet....
But what if I don't have a choice? What if I'm forced to move on by the powers that be? How do I come to terms with that?
Throughout my whole ski career I have been all about balance. Balance in my pursuits. Balance on my skis. Balance in my mentality. I like to think I have a balanced and well-rounded perspective. When I think about the number of people in the world who actually pay attention to ski racing, it seems absurd to be a part of this sport. Not to mention the ones who have access and can afford to ski....that's another story altogether. When I traveled down to Chile one year and drove through the slums on my way to Valle Nevado, I asked, "what percentage of the Chilean population actually skis?" And the bus driver answered, "0.1%." Point one percent? That's one in one-thousand. That number is minuscule, considering the incredible skiing they have in Chile.
Ski racing is a foreign sport to many people around the world. I once had a TSA agent in Atlanta ask me if my ski boots were roller-blades! So few people on this planet know what ski racing even is, it's a wonder that this sport even thrives at all. So, if no one really knows that my sport exists, can I truly make a difference in this world?
What is my ultimate goal? Why do I ski at all?!
Skiing is how I express myself. Ski racing is where I feel like my truest, freest self. I want to take that expression, take that creativity and share it with the world. I want to inspire others to do the same -- to follow their dreams. To fall, to fail, to rise back up. To persist and push the limits. To do it all over again. I want people to push to be their best selves. I want to be my best self. I want to not be scared of that person. I want to create positive change in this world, and I hope to inspire others to do the same.
So, how do I do these things if I can no longer ski race at the highest level? There are so many incredible prospects, so much potential, so many means through with to achieve these dreams. I can make art. I can make music. I can make people think, create conversation about change and inspire that conversation to grow. I could travel the world, spread the love, blog, make connections, and catalyze change that way. I could volunteer at the community arts center, volunteer at a women's health clinic in Africa. I could volunteer as a leader. I could write a book, write a song, carve a new path through the woods. I could become a vet, an architect, a nutritionist. The options are limitless. But I'm not overwhelmed or afraid. In fact, I look forward to life after skiing: to completing my degree in fine-arts. To figuring out the next step, trusting in it, and jumping in head first, with no regrets. I will be an impetus of positive change no matter where I go, because that is what I really want to do.
But, for now, I will continue on this path to recovering from injury, and following my dreams of being one of the best skiers in the world. Of going to the Olympics in 9 months, and competing at the highest level. I will continue to work my ass off, as I have been doing, and grind until I can grind no longer. I will do everything I can to come back stronger, as I truly believe I can. This break from skiing is only going to make me miss it more, make me hungry, and make me fierce. But if it doesn't work out, there is another endeavor waiting for me -- waiting for all of us -- when this one comes to an end. And I will not let that end scare me or hold me back. I will let it be my motivation to make the most of what I have, where I am, right now. And to move forward with no regrets.
Change is inevitable. Nothing is permanent. I want to embrace that, and live that change to the fullest. Because....why not?
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind