Recently, along with a band mavericks I like to call friends, I took to the slopes in France. Having skied almost all my life since the age of eight or so, I was both curious to see what skiing in a place with huge mountains would be like and terrified to see what skiing in a place with giant mountains would be like. This is every skier’s dilemma, I’m sure.
My surprising fear of steep inclines was not aided by the fact up until a week ago I hadn’t set sight on a pair of ski boots in two years. Actually, during another completely different life lesson. I chose (it turned out wisely) to get lessons during my time.
Initially, I actually thought my instructor was cool. Now, anyone who has read almost any of my blogposts ever can probably attest to the fact that I am not the cool kid, or the cat’s pyjamas, or the bees knees. I do not ooze Vogue from my veins. Honestly, most of the time I’m not even balanced on flat ground let alone striking a pose. I’ve certainly never casually strolled up to a group, and silently posed in my sunglasses as the sun wafted through my hair before motioning for my posse to follow my effortless lead as I cruise off to a button lift.
Liam may or may not have done any or all of the above but whatever he did for about ten to twenty minutes of my life I was under the complete and utter impression that he simply oozed cool like caramel out of a mars bar. I spent the rest of our (brief) time together piecing together a completely different view of my instructor.
Sure, he’d swish his skis this way and that, skiing down a slope with the trademark boredom of a fantastic skier. He’d even do that thing where you’d ski down to him and instead of commenting on your poise or lack of control he’d remain stoically silent. In my warped — perhaps altitude addled — mind somehow that felt very cool. Occasionally, he might tip you a nod. For about 600 seconds of my life I considered that nod to be the gold standard of skiing school.
After a while Liam’s ability to look completely, totally, and utterly bored really got to me. It wasn’t just that I was jealous of his commitment to the cause — don’t get me wrong some deep dark part of me has always wanted to burst into a room, flick my hair, and not end up knocking over two dozen glasses and somehow punching somebody in the eye in the process — it was that Liam’s cool somehow got under my skin.
There were slopes that would normally not phase me, but under Liam’s nonchalance fear overcame me. There were turns I knew I could do if I actually committed my body to it, under Liam’s expert tuition in the school of looking casual I couldn’t make any of them without wanting (ever so slightly) to cry. By the second day, recognising that something was up, I was moved to a different class by the instructors. Honestly, that move was the best thing that could have happened to me.
In the two days that I followed Liam around slopes, skidding across ice and, sometimes, for just a few seconds, wishing I’d not got up in the morning, he taught me a lesson that was never on the syllabus.
Confidence is the only thing standing in the way of you and your dreams.
I can’t really blame Liam for somehow weirding me out with his lucky-go-happy attitude so much so that I had to have a five minute pep talk from my friends at the top of an easy green slope later in the afternoon. I can’t even really blame him for how scared I found myself on the second day when everything around us was fogged over by ice, including the button in my brain marked ‘CALM DOWN YOU NINNY’
What I can see is that my skiing ability during the whole week, and not just during my time in ski school, was directly related to my confidence. When my confidence stuttered everything fell apart, but when I slowly gathered it all back together — often telling myself that if somebody else could do it then so could I — things started to fall into place again for me.
I enjoyed almost every moment of my week (even the (slightly) death defying moments spent with too cool for school ski instructor, Liam), but what I enjoyed most of all was mastering my own fears.
Having no other place to go, I had to get back on slopes and strap on my skis every day. Feeling like I had no other choice, pushing myself to carry on skiing was the best thing to happen to me. I loved my week skiing, and in part it was only because I pushed through a wall I built on the first day.
I’ve determined, resolved even, to do the same with writing for now. Sometimes I fall, and the button in my head marked ‘YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE’ gets fogged over by ice or self-doubt. Now, I know that all I need to do is stand back up, and carry on writing. Now, I know that if I just keep on going I can master the fear in my heart and the demons on the page.