The Insider’s Guide to Life: I’m Good at This

ColumnBe you.

I am not an athletically inclined person. While I love hiking and yoga and dancing all up in da club now and again, I am resiliently unmotivated to “push” my body in ways that I deem boring or annoying. I do not thrill to bun-burning stair runs, whether they be in Santa Monica or on Lyon Street in San Francisco, although I’m clearly good at taking up residence near them (if only to snub them). I don’t enjoy running, I openly despise biking, and pilates, well, that branch of fitness seems like a great way to micro-manage everything good about yoga right out of it. I often marvel in detached wonderment at the many denizens of the Bay Area who love these things and love them hard, and then I judge their fleece vests.

All of this explains why, despite growing up in Washington State where outdoor recreational opportunities abound, I have never skied. Telling people this invariably gets one of two responses: “But you’re so NorCal!” and “But you’re so NorCal!” Turns out, I’m actually not so NorCal, and when a couple of friends invited me to go skiing in Tahoe this holiday weekend, I decided it was high time to address this deficiency.

This is the part of the column where things get real. Standing in line at REI the night before the trip, laden with a rent check’s worth of gear, I wasn’t just apprehensive – I was fully resigned to the stone certainty that I would be terrible at this, and go home with my uncoordinated tail between my legs. Self, better hang on to the receipt, I told myself. I was scared. I opted for two days of beginner snowboarding lessons to offset the impending humiliation as much as I could, and I was relieved to find that the High Camp bunny hill at Squaw was satisfactorily out of eyesight of the other runs where my peers without athletic neuroses looked to be flinging themselves willingly at rocks and trees and each other.

I had the entire storyline signed, sealed and sent to press: Never Particularly Athletic, Clumsy City Girl Begged Not to Return by Ski Instructor.

And then something funny happened. No, not the first day where I crashed my way down the bunny slope all afternoon. All of five minutes into day two, I got my legs. And it turns out, to my disbelief and delight: They’re good legs. Really good. I’m…good at this. Yes, Self, you can go faster. Yep, you can finish the run first, and get on that lift and do it again. You can even stop (most of the time).

It was a memorable weekend, and not just because I spent significantly less time on my backside than I’d anticipated. I was with good friends and made new friends, too. The last night, in a big dinner mashup of multiple entrees (including a “salad off”) with our party and another group of friends who were there, will go down as one of the funniest meals of my life. Let’s just say anesthesiologists have some quality stories. Highly recommend.

All weekend, my friends had been trying to help me come up with this week’s column topic. “What about ways that ski resorts are going green?” Cheng. “How about green ski products?” Michelle. “Getting out into nature?” Jeff. All good, but in the end – or rather, at the top – I had my topic. Cliche, but true: There’s nothing like being fully immersed in the present moment, using your body, to experience the proverbial epiphany. Sliding off the lift for the third or fourth time on that beautiful day, banking to look at sparkling Lake Tahoe, I had mine. The confidence that comes with taking joy in oneself, whether that’s keeping your own company or reaching out to someone else or achieving something new (such as not falling down the slope). As perfectionists, as activists, as go-getters, as people who generally strive to do well, better, best, we can get so caught up in grading ourselves, we forget to delight in simply being ourselves. To give ourselves an A for showing up, because that’s the real test to be aced.

This weekend I remembered that when it comes to me being me, I’m good at this. And so are you.

This is the third in your editor’s new column for 2011, The Insider’s Guide to Life, exploring topics such as media, culture, sex, politics, and style. If she’s got the strength for it, there will be more to come. Cheers and spellcheck!

Image: jurvetson