“She read a hundred-year-old quote from a mountaineer. He was asked, ‘Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?’ The mountaineer replied in bemusement, as if the question was ridiculous and the answer obvious, ‘Because it’s there.’ Kira understood then, because why had she wanted to go to university when no one else in her family had been? Why had she chosen law when everyone had told her it would be too hard? Why? To find out if she could do it. Because she wanted to climb that damn mountain. Because it was there.” Fredrik Backman, Us Against You
There are a lot of things that I am not (or that I’m not very good at) but there’s one thing I can confidently say: I am a lifelong learner. I love to try new things…the challenge, the setbacks, the ‘seeing-if-I-can-do-it.’ I’ve written before that half of it is likely Irish stubbornness from mom’s side and the other half is Finnish sisu from my dad. But whatever it is, I don’t like to quit. For as much lake water as I sucked in trying to learn to wakeboard, and for as often as I said, “Just one more time and that’s it!” there was always one more run if I hadn’t quite got it. It might be that I’m just a slow learner, but I’m definitely a persistent one.
Hands-down my favorite way of learning most things, though, is by reading. The holiday time was very quiet at our house so I had ample time to sit and read, which was awesome. As I tweeted, my reading pile included a re-read, a deep slow read, three mysteries, a tear-jerker and a heartbreaker. Our daughter was home from university, and our son even detached himself from his PS4 and came up out of the basement to hang out. Of course, going back to the farm to see mom and dad at Christmas is like a touchstone to all things family. At one point there were ten grandkids under the age of 10 and it was chaos. Now the upper age limit is 19, so it’s calmer but more crowded. What a treat to visit and socialize with them now as mini-adults…and beat them easily in crokinole. That never gets old!
I also know I probably worked a bit more than I should have over the break. Teaching is an exhausting and complex job and we should recharge whenever possible and not feel guilty about it. But thank goodness for friends who will call you on your crap when you need it most! So when I was contemplating taking my computer to the ski hill to do some work while my son went snowboarding, I took the advice to “learn how to holiday properly…” and I decided to learn to snowboard myself.
This didn’t come completely out of the blue. I’m a competent skier but both of our kids snowboard and have bugged me in the past to try it. My biggest concern was always about breaking something, but the other, quieter, part was telling me that I just wouldn’t be able to do it. And since I’m always quoting Brene Brown to everyone else, I took her advice and reminded myself: there is no courage without vulnerability. (Although, to spare myself extraneous embarrassment from trying to keep up with a group of 7 year olds, I did book a private lesson.)
It’s a funny thing being a student.
It was physically hard. Pushing yourself up off the snow with one arm, repeatedly, was no small feat. Especially when you are on a hill and gravity is sliding you in an opposite direction. I swear snowboarders must have one arm longer than the other just for this purpose! Trying to stay up was just as difficult and my legs burned. Really burned.
But the two most difficult parts were actually not physical.
The first was asking for help. That’s not easy for me to do. My teenage instructor probably wasn’t used to having a middle-aged woman as a student, and to his credit, he didn’t mollycoddle me. He’d just casually put his foot on the edge of my board to keep it from sliding, or give a suggestion about technique. He also patiently answered all of my questions…and I had many of them! Only once, when I absolutely couldn’t get it, did I ask him for a hand up. Sometimes we need that from our teachers too.
The second difficult part was just doing it. Well, more specifically, FEELING like I was doing it. “You need to pick up a bit more speed and feel it in the turns…feel like you are snowboarding.” (As opposed to just putting the brakes on and heeling it all the way down lol. But I knew what he meant!) How many times do we lament the difficulty in getting kids to feel that they are writers, and not just ‘do’ writing? Or feel that they are readers, and not just having them read?
I spent the afternoon boarding with my 17 year old son, and I learned even more with him. He noticed I was wearing the binding wrong and took the time to repair it (my instructor said it hadn’t been set up properly by the rental shop, but didn’t show me what to do about that…) which made me think of how many times I might point something out to a student, but not ensure that they understand the WHY and HOW of fixing it. Noted!
We also ventured off the ‘bunny hill’ onto the main runs. I won’t deny that I was pretty anxious about getting on and off the chair lift, and to have competent skiers and boarders going around me on the hill like I was a pylon. But by upping the level of difficulty, I was also able to pick up some of that speed and 'feel' it too. I also felt it when I fell down, over and over again. But it was soooo much fun.
The bar for trying new things is now literally set at a six-inch continent-shaped bruise. On my butt. Even a week later. I’m not sure if it is a compilation of falls into one giant bruise, or if it’s a compilation of many smaller bruises from my many falls. Regardless, it’s a reminder that trying new things doesn’t come with instant success, but repeatedly (and sometimes literally) getting back up again. And that’s a lesson for every thing that we learn in this life.
Miyo Ohcetow Kisikaw! Hyvää uutta vuotta! Happy New Year!
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