I stood at the top of the slope and smiled at my good fortune. The blizzard was still fresh in the air, flakes continuing to drop lightly, not giving up. They glittered, dancing about the grayish blue sky. The east coast had seen a dump of snow unlike any it had seen in years, even a decade. Over two glorious feet had fallen in the last 24 hours on Bolton Valley, Vermont. And it was technically spring.
As I started down the hill, powder flew up and over my thighs as I sank down deep into my tele turns. It felt like flying, soaring over clouds. I giggled, gliding into more turns. My smile must have reached from ear to ear, I was delirious with powder and turning and flight. About half way down I stopped, gasping for breath, and cheering a little to myself. I hadn’t skied in powder like this in years, since living out west.
That’s when I realized. I was right under the lift.
See, for decades before, I had avoided skiing under the lift. I didn’t like the feeling of being watched as I turned. I was insecure and unstable, even though I had been skiing nearly all my life. Something about turning under the watchful gaze of others made me lose my rhythm, made me self critical, made me enjoy it less, and become more likely to fall.
Then all of a sudden, that feeling was completely gone.
Maybe this is what it means to grow up. To finally be okay with who you are and what are you doing. To not give a rat’s ass what others might think of you, giggling and cheering on a powder day, skiing all by yourself.
So much of the time women are taught to think about how they look. To judge themselves, and to judge others. To compare. To be in control, and to not let them see how you really feel.
Well, emotions are hard to hide on a powder day. The woods were filled with gleeful shouts and hoots all morning. And why should we hide them on any day? To feel the span of human emotion is a gift that we turn away every time we shame, hide, tune out or numb ourselves.
And then one day, no more. No more of that useless 20 and 30 year old self conscious narrative. The one where you care more about what other people think than you do about what you think. This is the 40s, when you finally do things because you want to. Do it for the joy, for the simple reason that you are alive and you can. It’s a time when many of us finally feel secure in our lives, friendships, and are free to be just exactly who were are, not who someone else thinks we should be.
Even if you are right under the lift for all on the chair lift to see. But it’s more than that. It is putting yourself out there. Running for the school board, writing a letter to the editor, or sending out that application. Or sharing your art, your gifts, your talents. Or calling your representatives, every damn day. It is allowing yourself to be seen, to take up space, and not to apologize for it.
Ski under the lift, on the slopes and off. Don’t let it take as long as it did for me. Feel the glittery flakes on your cheeks, let out a “Woot!”, smile and live and be brave. I hope I can continue to do this.
Life is too short to care who is watching from the chairlift, or from anywhere, and what they will think.
Katy Farber is an educator, author, and 3-pinner from Vermont. She writes about education, the environment, and parenting. She is the author of The Order of the Trees (middle grade fiction), Real and Relevant (a book for teachers) and a picture book called Salamander Sky (Green Writers Press) and among others. Learn more about katyfarber.com.