When I was 14 years old, my cousin Mark and his wife, June, took me along on a ski trip to Snowshoe, West Virginia. Mark’s younger brother, Jim, who was 16 at the time, was also along, as were some friends of Mark and June.
I had started skiing several years earlier, but compared to Jim (who would later ski on his college team before moving to Colorado) I was basically a reckless neophyte. Brave (foolish?) enough to aim my skis down almost anything, I lacked the skill to always maintain control. As such, I wiped out frequently, especially as I tried to keep up on the slopes Jim wanted to ski.
So it was on this trip: While Jim was tearing up the slopes, I was basically just tearing down them–and terrorizing innocent bystanders along the way.
On the second night of our long-weekend excursion, Jim and I walked over to the ski lodge to eat cheese fries, drink Dr. Pepper, and play Ms. Pac-Man on a tabletop arcade machine. It was the mid-1980s, so I was sporting a pink bandana as headwear. Along with my braces and brown-and-grey striped ski sweater, this likely made me the most fashion-forward boy for three West Virginia counties.
While we were eating, two pretty girls with big brunette hair and Jordache jeans approached and asked if they could use the Ms. Pac-Man machine. We made way, of course, and Jim struck up a conversation.
The girls were 16 and 18, hailed from Western Pennsylvania, and were both new to skiing. One of them commented that she had spent as much time on the ground that day as she had standing up.
I nodded and stuffed an over-hot cheese fry into my mouth.
“That’s okay,” I said, the roof of my mouth burning, “I’m an experienced skier, and I still wipe out all the time–especially on the bumps or when I’m catching air. I think if you’re not wiping out sometimes, then you’re really not skiing hard enough.”
Jim laughed–and still laughs–at that line. Evidently, in the moment, it came across as a hopelessly macho claim from a goofy kid in braces, a pink bandanna, and a brown-and-gray ski sweater.
But I don’t remember it quite that way. I remember it as just an honest impromptu reflection on how to have fun on a ski slope–and most other places, too, come to think of it.
You can either aim your skis down the hill and go for it, or you can stand back and watch your cousin ski away. You can either try out your cheesy line on the pretty brunette from Western Pennsylvania, or you can hide behind the Ms. Pac-Man machine.
If you go for it, you may well wipe out. I know this, because I did–with the girls as well as the skis. But unless you’re really reckless, you’ll eventually make it down the hill. And even if you wind up with a few bumps and bruises, you’ll at least come home with a story to tell.
Who knows? You might even learn something along the way–like how to be a better skier, or how to let the cheese fries cool before popping them into your mouth, or at least how to pick less ridiculous outfits (not that you girls have a problem with that!).
Bottom line: It’s always good to know your limitations, but it’s not always best to accept them. Sometimes it’s best to push beyond them, fall down, and laugh at yourself when you do.