Intrusive Thoughts Hurtling Down a Mountain

I did that thing where I bring my soft sack of blood and bone high on a precarious slope and slide down it (the slope) at high speeds on narrow slats of wood. Yup, I went skiing. Compound my lack of skill and a still-healing radial fracture and this was a particularly terrifying experience for me.

I expected, maybe even relished, the physical challenge skiing is for me. The mental one, however, was new. Concern for my arm awoke an old fear of heights; as each run began my sanity came under scrutiny: why am I here? Who am I to flirt with death and expect to escape? I would swear this is my last run and that if I just got through this one there would be beer and warmth waiting for me at the bottom.

Lift and turn. Beer and warmth. I can do this. It’s just like ice skating. I should go ice skating back in Kyoto. AH! I almost died. Pause. Breathe. Focus. Lift and turn. Beer and warmth. I wonder if they have black and tans…

This would continue until I was somewhere near the bottom, at which point the rush of near-success overcame any fear and I simply floated the rest of the way. That’s how I remember it.

And when I got to the bottom I went back up. Cause that’s what you do when you’re skiing. Somewhere between freezing my toes and shrieking like a little girl I learnt something, though. Something about facing challenges and overcoming fears, especially the fear of the unknown.

On each run there’d be at least one point where I was convinced I’d die. My life flashed before my eyes, I thought about regrets, saw a white light, the whole bit. So why’d I keep going back up?

It wasn’t determination to face my fears. I was seriously considering giving up. Yet I knew that all I had to do was get started, get moving down the hill. Get to the point of no return and let gravity do the rest. Get to the point where I no longer had a choice and suddenly everything was easier. Anyone who’s made a deadline at the last minute could attest to the reserves that are found when options run out. And it always works.

People ask me how I’ve managed to drop everything I knew and travel. Or how I taught myself to program. How to get in shape or how to build a relationship. Any time you see someone achieve something desirable there’s an automatic desire to find their secret, as if there are cheat-codes in life. Just press here, swipe there, touch this and all your dreams will be made true.

All I can say is: one step at a time. Everything happens one step at a time. It’s so cliché it’s never acceptable. So I end up on extended explanations of circumstances, luck, supportive friends— all true but ultimately bullshit. Yet I do it because, looked at from beginning to end, the steps add up to a journey, and the journey is daunting; there must be some deeper explanation, right?

What’s missed is how much easier the steps get. Problems I faced in my first week are now a simple part of life; I barely think twice about things that were major struggles only eight months ago. I never would have gotten a remote job if not for having already been enrolled in Remote Year, yet I only enrolled on the hope that I’ll find a job. So I guess my answer should be: “One step at a time, momentum does the rest”. Take the step towards your dream and the rest will happen.

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