For years, I trudged hesitantly up the snowy slopes every winter in the east coast hoping to master the art of snowboarding.  My boyfriend at the time was quite the avid boarder and in attempt to share a passion I willingly subjected myself to learn how to board.  And every year, I’d end up falling (quite literally) on my butt unable to get up. Each year, I’d flip on my back or face. I’d walk back down from my lessons after hours of attempts with small children easily, almost haughtily, boarding past me…falling leaf, my a–. I was physically fit and determined yet exhaustingly unsuccessful at boarding down even the smallest slope. For the type-A, self-taught everything person, it was a huge disappointment and real quandary.

The first winter back in LA, my family and I went to Big Bear for the holidays and I had absolutely no intention of boarding.  Maybe it was the jauntiness of the three year olds dragging their boards or the newness of being back in LA as an adult without the net of a corporate career, but my rebellious spirit stirred.  I signed up for beginners snowboarding class…AGAIN.  On the lift, I sat next to my red headed teenage instructor who looked like the reincarnation of Sean White.  We discussed his weekly commute from the OC to Big Bear and my sad attempts at learning to board.  He casually assured me that we’d have “fun”.  I scoffed internally.  On the slope, he explained boarding simply after running over the generally mechanics of boarding: Look to where you want to go.  Wow.  Simple. Basic. And yet profoundly effective.  It made sense on so many levels.

If you’re looking at your feet, you’ll head toward it and fall down. I was prone to checking my feet and knees to make sure they were positioned correctly, which, of course, would lead to falling.

If you’re concerned about the immediate obstacle directly in front of you, then you only create a path as far as that distance then fall. I’d finally coast a little but would hesitate as I started gaining speed and, you got it: fall.

But the further out you look, further forward, your body follows. Instead of worrying about perfectly positioning myself or starting to assess the results as I gained speed, I just fixed my gaze at the end of the course. That winter,  I boarded down a slope called the accelerator.  It felt incredible discovering the fluidity and grace with my feet strapped on to a piece of UHMW. There was a liberty to embracing something I had been chasing with so much effort and such little reward.

I often think of that moment amidst trials and hardships. So often when an obstacle or set back presents itself, it is so easy to focus on the ‘problem’ and be consumed by it.  When looking to beyond the immediate issue at hand, you can start to formulate a potential resolution.  It’s hard to look at the potential aftermath, when you’re stuck looking head-on to the problem in front of you. And while I find the importance in understanding the “why?” (why did this happen?), I think it is equally important to understand the “how?” (How did this happen? How can I fix/solve this? How can I move forward?).

I’ve become skilled at asking the whys and hows but this lesson of looking forward I had to hone.
In my acting class, my teacher leads us through visualization exercises at the start of every class. It took me awhile, but I had to retrain the realist in me to look beyond just what was probable to what was possible.  Through the practice of envisioning all the possibilities, I am able to tap beyond what I thought I was capable of and assess more authentically what I truly want. What’s the point of dreaming if you cap it or don’t dream big? Being able to harness the power of visualization–this art of looking forward/to where you want to go, feeds the hope of what truly is and what can be as well.

As poetic as it is to view that one lesson as the key to unlocking this experience, upon reflection it is all the moments of ‘failure’ that set me up for success. Had I not signed up based on all the past experiences indicating that I’d fall, I would’ve never looked forward nor would I have recalled that experience so vividly. Would the victory tasted as sweet? Now I’m not encouraging you to do a faceplant for the sake of learning a lesson. Please don’t. Rather to remind you that as you walk through whatever darkness or grayness of your life, to allow yourself the experience of it and to know with certainty that when you come out of it…and when you don’t realize what it was for, it’ll wash over like a tidal wave and *click*.

In addition to teaching me the importance of failure and resilience, I realized much later it spoke so much about the importance of staying true to yourself and listening to and doing what is authentically you. Of course, the desire to learn to board came from such a loving place of wanting to share in the joy my partner at the time felt. But it said so much about the imbalance of my point of view at that time…I was so focused on pleasing this other person that I never asked myself if I really wanted to learn to board.  It was not for me and I spent most of the day trying to learn while my boyfriend rode the advance courses by himself. Where was my voice to say maybe this year I’ll ski or let’s try some of the smaller hills together?  When I learned to board in LA, I did it for myself and I did out of curiosity. A sense of play. “Let’s see what happens.” When the stakes are at their highest, that sense is the most crucial yet easiest to drop. Let’s see what happens. Look! Let’s play!


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