I pushed myself down the slopes and out of my comfort zone (and you should too)

by Grace Fontes

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist of 20 years, the idea of throwing myself into an entirely new activity made my heart skip a beat and my insides turn.

Throughout my childhood, I tried numerous hobbies, never afraid of failing. However, with age, I developed a fear of not living up to my own expectations, which caused most of them to fall to the wayside. Soccer balls, paints, knitting needles and ballet slippers remained in the darkness of shelves and closets as reminders that I had yet to truly succeed in any of these activities.

Therefore when my friends presented me with the opportunity for a Big Bear ski trip, my stomach dropped. As a Southern Californian who had never seen snow, let alone gone skiing, I knew this weekend would test my limits and challenge my perfectionist hang-ups.

Though the idea of spending a few days with my friends in the mountains brought a smile to my face, it would instantly slide off when I remembered that I would be hurtling down a mountain without ever having stepped in snow. I attempted to squash my nerves by planning every aspect of my travels, but I could not shake the image of my frustrated childhood self tearing up after struggling and failing to learn a new skill, something that had unfortunately become only more common with adulthood. However, I was also determined to make the most of what I was sure would be a core college memory.

As we suited up for the day and began the long trek to the mountain, my heart began to pick up in pace (and not just from the strain of carrying all of my ski gear). Though I am certain my trepidation was obvious, my more experienced friends’ casual confidence somewhat eased my worries. Even so, after stepping into my skis and shuffling towards the lift, I felt the nervous thoughts begin to worm their way into my brain and body. What if I couldn’t stop? What if I had a terrible fall? What if I wasn’t good enough? What if I failed? I felt like I was learning to swim or walk again, feeling entirely unfamiliar on my legs. But I barely had enough time to let the thoughts pass through my mind before sliding off the lift and landing straight on my tailbone.

I was initially hit by a wave of embarrassment, but thankfully, I learned how important it is to learn new things with someone who supports you in your highs and lows (literally). My lovely friend and mock ski instructor, Elizabeth, lifted me off the ground, and down the hill we went.

While I wish I could say I was a ski prodigy, easing my way down the slopes, I most definitely was not. But, for once in my life, with every fall I got back up and kept going, not letting myself be stopped by my fear of failure. And even with a rocky ending which landed me in quite a precarious position, I got back on the ski lift and went again. And again. And again. Until I went down the entire learning hill without a fall. Although I felt slightly silly exclaiming “I did it!” when I noticed that this hill was frequented by children (some of whom were more skilled than I was), a feeling that was formerly unfamiliar when trying new things began to blossom within me — pride. I was proud of myself for getting out there and doing it, even if my skill level was below that of my friends, because I realized that it was okay to start at the bottom, especially as a girl who had never even seen snow prior to the trip.

Whether it was a newfound sense of maturity or being surrounded by people who were happy to fall with me, I had come to understand how important it is to allow yourself to fail, even in adulthood, even if it is uncomfortable or embarrassing. I had become complacent in my routines and could not even remember the last time I tried something new. But now, after having challenged myself to try something completely out of my comfort zone, I feel confident that I have gained a deeper understanding of myself and a profound gratitude for my friends, as well as a desire to try more things I have no experience with.

So my advice to you is simple. This year, allow yourself to try new things and fall, because you never know what you might learn as you get back up.

Illustration by Sophia Unhae Ko/BruinLife.

Illustration by Sophia Unhae Ko/BruinLife.

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