The End of an Era

Truth Byte #55

 

“Everyone changes, even you.”

 

For a long time, I used to wonder whether people could change.  I would have late-night debates with my friends from university about whether lasting change is possible, or if people just put on a show to win whatever life goal they are grasping for without ever really changing the fundamental fabric of who they are.

 

What I learned last weekend is that everyone changes, even me.

 

And I learned this lesson in the most unexpected place: on the ski hill.

 

But wait a second, let me back up a few years.

 

When I was in fifth grade, my eldest cousin took me and a gaggle of other little cousins up to a ski hill.  For an immigrant child, skiing was about the most “Canadian” we could get (besides drinking beer and eating back bacon, neither of which were culturally sanctioned for me as a nine-year old Muslim girl), and maybe playing hockey, a sport that was way to expensive for a “working-three-jobs-each-to-make- ends-meet” parental budget.

 

So this ski trip was a really big deal in feeling like we belonged by participating in an activity that seemed so far from reach for us.  Looking back on it now, I wonder how much planning that must have taken, and how many corners they must have had to cut to get each of us day passes and ski rentals, not to mention snow pants and matching toques.  None of the parents donned the awkward ski boots, but they cheered us on enthusiastically in their soaked through running shoes and tightly swaddled necks from the bottom of the hill.

 

My cousin was the trail blazer, and he spent time with each of us, helping us learn the basics.

 

I remember that thrill of figuring out how to get my body to turn just so, and how much we laughed as we fell over and over and over.  I remember learning to gently place the t-bar under my bum to avoid bruising as it pulled me slowly up the bunny hill. I remember that exquisite feeling as we loosened our boots and threw off our gloves at the end of the day, and the smell of the smashed up egg and cucumber sandwiches that the parents had kept ready for us in the cooler. I remember the years later where we would tell and re-tell the story of that day, comparing who was the fastest, who was the most fearless, and who would probably never ski again.

 

In sixth grade, we went skiing with my school.

 

I rocked it.

 

And so I was off, taking up the opportunity to practice whenever someone else was paying for it or it was included in some Girl Guides or YMCA Leadership package.  I loved the rush of the speed, and the views from the chairlift, and that lovely feeling of restful fullness in the lodge and hot-tub after it was all over.

 

The last memorable ski trip I had was the Spring before I got married, about a decade ago.  My older cousin (a different one this time) noticed we were coming to the end of an era as a family group, and felt we should mark it in some way.  It was a girl’s trip, so details will have to stay on the hill, but I will say that my worst skiing nightmare came true and I survived it (go ahead, let your imagination go wild here!)

 

And then I didn’t ski again until last weekend.

 

What a disaster.

 

I had a bad feeling about it looming from weeks before, but pushed through anyway and got myself up onto the hill. It was my brother’s birthday and I really wanted us to have this experience together.

 

Half way down my first run, I found myself paralyzed.  Instead of that thrill and sweetness that I used to feel, I felt terror.  Instead of noticing the view from the chairlift, I was worried about how high we were, worried about dismounting, worried about something going wrong. Instead of the excitement for the next run, half way down the hill, I completely froze.

 

Right there, as little kids whizzed passed me on that supposedly easy practice hill, I couldn’t move. I was sweating through my long johns, my heart was pounding, and my brain was racing. It was worse than that feeling I had once when I watched a horror movie as a kid and couldn’t sleep because the shadows were coming alive.  It was the feeling I used to have right before I fainted. It was awful.  It was the opposite of fun.

 

I was stuck.

 

I did not want to faint on that hill.

 

So I had to give myself a silent pep talk, not realizing my brother was capturing the entire ski, stop, self-talk episode on his smartphone.

 

As I tried to soothe the racing heart and the dizzy feeling, I realized I had two choices.  I could either ski down the rest of the way, or I could take off my skis and walk down.  So I made a deal with myself.  I decided that if I skied down the rest of the way, I could spend the rest of the afternoon in the lodge, with no internal pressure to participate in the adrenaline rush for the rest of the afternoon.

 

Just that decision made it possible for me to complete my run.

 

But boy, did I feel like an idiot for a few hours.  As I loosened my boots and the blood rushed back into my calves and feet, I felt like such a failure.

 

So I texted my husband, who was at home watching the kids.

 

And he told me it’s okay, that maybe I have changed.

 

And that’s when it clicked.

 

Everyone changes, even me.

 

I have changed in many ways over the past decade, but I did not expect this.  It kind of came out of nowhere, actually.  I now know that don’t like that risk-taking-high feeling anymore.  Not at all.

 

And that’s okay.

 

That’s not to say I will never try it again, for sure I will.  I just know now that my experience may be different than it used to be.  I can stop trying to re-create the magic of that first day on the slopes all those years ago, or re-enact the camaraderie and game-changing experiences of our final girl’s trip.  I can just be in the new experience, and not expect myself to respond in the same ways I always have, because it’s okay to change.

Have you been noticing your changes? Some of these changes may be pleasant surprises while others may seem more unexpected or unwanted.  As you evolve into a newer and truer version of yourself, you may find there are aspects of you falling away.  I would challenge you this week to take a look at which arenas in your life have been impacted by these changes, and see if there is a change you would like to be more deliberate and plan-ful about. Write me at connect@talktosaira.com if your changes will take a little professional support, and you are ready to take the leap!