What I learned about faith from flirting my way into a private snowboarding lesson
It’s the first of the year and I’m in a scramble trying to get home from the gym after fighting the newly resolved gym noobs and in a deep, internal, philosophical debate as to whether or not it was necessary to wash my hair. I opted for no, threw it in a bun, showered and piled on the classic “Midwestern girl going out to a bar in the middle of winter” black on black with a leather jacket. I thought I looked fly as shit, until I accidentally matched with everyone there. I’ve decided to write that down as a “great minds think alike” kind of moment rather than coping with the reality that we’re all basic white girls trying to look edgy.
As I was trying to force my foot into my little heeled bootie my phone rang and one of my dear friends, mentors and adoptive parents (I tend to collect these, I’m easily adoptable) was calling. I answered it, hoped I didn’t smudge my makeup as I jammed it between my chin and shoulder and laid down on my bed with my foot in the air trying to get better leverage to shove it in my shoe and grunted a “Hey Nan! “ as I exerted enough force to finally jam it inside.
“Kelsey! I have a crazy idea! Want to come to Colorado this week? I found you a cheap flight on Tuesday and I want to get it.”
Ummmmm. Beautiful nature, spontaneous adventure and hanging with one of the world’s greatest people? In the words of my dear friend, Amy Poehler, YES PLEASE.
Unbeknownst to Nan, we had just made the decision to go do the video project overseas that we we’ve been trying to get rocking and rolling for over a year at the end of this month, so I wouldn’t be able to go mid Feb as originally planned…AND we had just decided on a (ridiculously cool and talented) videographer who is based out of Denver, so I got to see him too! AND My former host family from Buenos Aires now lives in Denver. It was actually too perfect for it to be a coincidence.
I tried my damndest to not overpack: left all hair products, 75% of my makeup bag, and anything not directly related to snowboarding, the Uphold work I had to get done or Jesus at home. I even packed a full 18 hours in advance, which for me is no greater of a miracle than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, as I was heading out to yet another couple who has adopted me into their family’s home so that they could bring me to the airport, my bag decided to break and I was forced to use a large, oversized suitcase. I looked like a MASSIVE diva with a suitcase the size I use for my Africa trips with me for 5 days in the mountains. Great.
I could go on and on about how wonderful it was to see my old host family again – let’s just say that I wanted to cry these big, huge alligator tears at any given moment because of the amount of life that was spoken over me in those few short hours we had together…and I wasn’t even PMS-ing.
It was additionally comforting to meet my new favorite buddy BC, who’s not only a creative genius and the perfect pick for this video project because the amount of LIFE he pours into his videos, but could probably also hold his weight on the dance floor with me. Don’t you worry -- this will be put to the test when we’re in Cape Town. Obviously we loved his work, but meeting him and getting to know his heart behind all of the projects he does just solidified the decision.
You know how they say when children who have been internationally adopted turn old enough to understand their culture, you should bring them back so they can see where they came from? That’s kind of how I felt in Denver. Seeing as it’s the birthplace of both Corepower and Chipotle, my two homes in Minneapolis, I felt very at home in what must have been my place of origin. I’m convinced my birth certificate is a lie. Needless to say, I did pound some Chipotle into my little bod, but that’s not really any different than normal. If anything I’ve had it less this week than normal because we’ve been in the mountains for 5 days.
Fast forward through me losing the plot through the entire drive out to the cabin because a) the mountains mess up my soul in the best possible way (look mom, I didn’t swear there, are you proud?) and b) there are stars fo dayz which do an equally overwhelming number on my little heart and we finally arrive at Nan’s cabin. Seeing as the previous night I got about 3.5 hours of sleep (which is strange, seeing as I’m a professional sleeper) I face-planted my pillow in hopes of being ready to shred my brains out on the mountain the next day.
Here’s the thing though: I don’t snowboard. Or ski. Or really do anything outdoors in the winter, aside from crying and swearing. I specialize in summer/fall activities like running, tanning, and drinking beer on rooftops. This was new territory. Once upon a time my ex (a proficient snowboarder) had told me I’d never be able to learn to board. Knowing me, you know this didn’t sit well because as soon as someone tells me I can’t do something, I immediately want to do it. However, due to the fact that I really dislike the cold I let it slide for a couple of years. But, not anymore. This year I decided that I would look incredibly cute with a board attached to my lower feet and a beanie on my head making the mountains of Colorado my bitch as I shredded down them.
Nan and crew said I’d be a natural because all you need is a significant amount of core strength, leg strength and balance. I assumed I’d be a natural, right?
They said to schedule myself for a half-day group lesson to learn the basics and meet up with them later and we’d shred together. Done. I rocked up to all the teachers and my opening statement wasn’t “Hi I’m Kelsey” it was “Yo dawg, on a scale of 1-10 how stoked are you to teach me to shred today? Because I’ma be the next Shaun White and you’re gonna be able to tell people you knew me when I was a nobody.” One of the male instructors said “Yeah you might be the best female boarder.” I stopped dead in my tracks, gave him a J.Lo –esq stank face and said “Excuse me, but my dear friend Beyonce has led me to believe that I can do absolutely anything a dude can, so I might be the best boarder full stop – gender has nothing to do with it.” I gave a bit of a head/body roll on that last line and a different instructor named Chaz laughed pretty hard.
Next thing I know, Chaz is following me around the slopes like a little puppy dog and I had accidentally flirted my way into a full day private lesson. For free. It was like $500 for a half day private, so Lord knows I wouldn’t have paid for a full day private on my own.
Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes right about now, and some of you are not surprised in the slightest. I don’t know how I do these things, but I just get stuff handed to me for no reason. In this case, I think it was genuinely a case of Jesus knowing that had I not had the private lesson, I would be hanging out with him in person because contrary to my cocky attitude when I walked onto the mountain… I SUCKED AT SNOWBOARDING.
Not the most spectacular experience, but if there’s one thing I know in life it’s this: the crappy experiences make the best blog posts. I don’t think it’s coincidental that this trip landed in my lap right at the same time as I’m about to embark on a huge step of faith with Uphold into some unknown territory.
So here it is, ladies and gentlemen.
WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT FAITH THROUGH FLIRTING MY WAY INTO A PRIVATE SNOWBOARDING LESSON.
Be confident, not cocky: I’m a very flawed human, but the flaw that I’m most aware of is the fact that in terms of anything and everything related to physical fitness, I’m ridiculously cocky. Seeing as I have spent hours upon hours on my toes in ballet class since I was three, I knew I had the balance part down. Seeing as I can kill a 5 minute plank without breaking a sweat, I figured I had the core strength down. And seeing as I’ve always relied on having strong legs for both dance and life in general because I have next to no upper body strength because I’m a disabled little nugget, I knew I had the leg strength down.
It was because of this attitude that I raised my expectations way too high for my skill level and was seriously disappointed. Here’s the real issue: no one expected me to be a pro, except me. I think the most dangerous thing that we sometimes do with taking steps of faith is we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect immediately, and for things to materialize instantaneously. That’s just not how life works.
If we go into faith steps with an attitude of “Hey, okay, I can do this. I know I can. Maybe not today, but eventually.” We’re able to handle a much steeper learning curve without being discouraged.
Get the right gear:
When I first got to winter park, a guy named Attilio got me sorted with a board and snowboarding boots. The only problem was that because he was far more concerned about his phone (probably tindering in hopes of getting a visa to stay in the mountains). Because he wasn’t paying attention, he gave me boots that were way too big and I could rise all the way onto my tip toes without them moving in the slightest…which caused me to not be able to do a toe press to slow myself down, and eventually I’d get whipped around, slam on my heels and do a 360 in the air. Not a joke. Chaz would run over to me like he was about to save me Jack Bauer style – yet there’s actually no way you can help someone who’s been whipped that bad. Either they’re okay, or they’re not.
The life correlation that comes to mind is this: don’t surround yourself with lazy people who don’t care about the important things when making big decisions. I should have smacked Attilio on the side of the head and told him to pay attention or get me someone else in order to get the right size of gear. I would have saved myself from a lot of hurt and embarrassment and that couldn’t be truer when taking steps of faith. Looking back I see a lot of the time when I took a step of faith and there were a lot of bumps, I know that if I had removed myself from the wrong people and situations I would have had a much easier time accomplishing what I’d set out to do.
Have the best attitude:
I showed up to the lesson with the same attitude I do everything involving physical exertion: insanely pumped. In high school when we’d go to camps with thousands of other dancers I’d get the “firecracker” award at the end of the week because I would always show up with such a pumped and expectant attitude. Honestly, we were all about to do something that’s going to be really tough, and the only way we’d end up good at it is if we all had a bomb attitude and great camaraderie. So, I always go into things like that with the mindset of “what can I bring to this environment to turn it into a party?” It always works. Chaz said he 1) was genuinely concerned about whether or not my spine was in tact on a few occasions and 2) had never met someone who would laugh after every single wipe out no matter how bad it was. I think he was just practicing some mad flattery but I’ll take it regardless.
Be prepared for some battle wounds:
I’m not always a pro at things, but I rarely suck that badly at anything. One of my life slogans echoes the great theologian, Ricky Bobby, “I wanna go fast.” Seriously, whether it’s running, driving, seeing results from an organization I’ve started or developing deep relationships with people that mantra reigns true. Why waste time, ya know? The good news was that for me in snowboarding, this was NO problem. I whipped down those mountains like a bullet. The bad news was, I couldn’t stop. What I thought was going to be a quickie lesson launching me into my new career of being the first and best professional snowboarder with a disability quickly turned into a humbling experience of me body slamming a mountain for six hours straight.
Additionally, getting up after a wipe out is so hard. Your feet are attached to a board and you’re fighting gravity. Plus, yours truly only has one little arm and wrist to both catch herself with and push herself up on, so by the end of the day even picking up a piece of pizza from Hernandos/Fernandos was wince-inducing.
I have yet to meet someone who inspired me with taking risks for the things they felt called for who hasn’t had some serious hurt along the way. People say unkind things, your friends betray you, your family may not believe in you. That’s okay. It’s a part of the process, and eventually that hurt heals.
There’s always someone there to pick you up:
I may have flirted my way into my private lesson, but it was so comforting to know that there was someone always right behind me to make sure I wasn’t too banged up. He would have said stop if he thought I couldn’t handle anymore, and no matter how hard of a wipe out I took he never made fun of me. He’d encourage me, tell me what I can do to avoid it the next time and tell me to try again.
That, my friends, is what Jesus is like. I think a lot of people view Jesus as this big rule keeper who like hated anyone different from him and wanted people to conform to his ways and would spew haterade all over people who wouldn’t. This literally couldn’t be farther from the truth. So often in my life Jesus is that snowboarding teacher, right beside me. He can see when I’m about to wipe out, He lets me experience it so that I learn, He often calls out when I need to make a change and then he’s there to get me going again.
Recuperating isn’t showing weakness, it’s necessary:
If we want to bounce back and not give up on our faith dreams, we need to take the time to sit back, reflect and recover. For me this looked like passing out at 8:15 PM on the night of my snowboarding escapade in a ball by the fireplace so tiny Nan said she didn’t know someone could get that small. Seriously, I’m a pro at the fetal position cry. Then, it looked like sleeping for 12 hours straight, something I haven’t done since infancy.
Finally it looked like taking a break from the slopes, staying in the cabin in sweats and focusing on Uphold work while I let my completely twinked shoulder, back and right ass cheek heal.
There’s nothing like a good dose of “holy crap this hurts” to get your brain focused on something else, and it helps you grow in the long run.
Do it again:
There’s literally nothing more terrifying then going after the very thing that left you banged up again, but we have to do it. No one is an expert the first time. Or usually the second, third and fourth times. It usually hurts for a while. But the reward in the end will always be worth it.