A few weeks ago (what seems like months and months ago, really, because re-entry after vacation time seems to whirl about mischievously and inevitably faster than before you left) Devin and I went snowboarding with a group of friends. It was my first time ever, and everyone said I would be a natural thanks to my surfing background. Leading up to the trip, I had visions in my head of perfect mountains, and how skillfully I would be sliding down the snow.
After all, it was easier than surfing, right? A static mountain is more predictable than a moving wave.
An icy mountain, though, regardless of how static it is, hurts like hell when you fall on it. Brutal, bitter, and unforgiving pain. All my hopes and dreams of this magical winter wonderland were quickly brought back down to earth within the first hours of the first day. The mountain hadn’t seen snow in several weeks.
It was not a vibe.
Relearning a Lesson I Already Knew
So, on the third day as we headed into the afternoon, we all decided it was best if I took a lesson instead. It was a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation, except the cooks were my friends and the kitchen was my overloaded brain.
I tromped off, disheartened and ashamed. After all, … I SURF. Why was this so hard? I should be better at this! My hubris had gotten the best of me, and I had flown too close to the sun. I was plummeting back to the earthly realization that everyone has a learning curve, and as much I wished mine were steeper, it wasn’t.
(For the record, I only fell while dismounting from the life ONCE the entirety of the 4 days. Small victories must be counted.)
I’m headed down the slope on my second run. The instructor—being equally as well-meaning as my friends but better at explaining this whole process that is sliding down a snowy slope on a piece of fiberglass, metal, and wood—told me only 3 things.
He definitely told me more, but that’s all I could focus on for the day.
- Look where you want to go.
- Party on the bottom, chillin’ on the top.
- Lead with your hips.
I had gotten so caught up on where everyone else was going that I forgot to simply focus on where I needed to go. My goal had gone from shredding down a mountain to the simple act of S-turning my way gently down without breaking anything. I decided that all I was going to care about for the last day of our trip was getting these damn S-turns down.
That’s it. S-turn. Heel-side to toe-side. Toe-side to heel-side. Party on the bottom, chillin’ on the top.
But what I want to talk about is that first thing he told me.
“Look where you want to go.”
Serious emphasis on want.
When I was first learning how to surf, one of my biggest bad habits was looking down at my feet instead of down the line.
Weirdly, I never thought of it as “Look where you want to go”, only “Look down the line”.
I would chant it in my head, in the lineup, under my breath, over and over and over.
“Look down the line. LOOK down the line. Look down the line. LOOK DOWN THE FRIGGIN LINE.”
And then, I would take off on another wave, look straight down at my feet, dunk the nose of my board and somersault off the front into a swirling sea of saltwater, embarrassment, and pissed-offness.
What the hell is wrong with you??? Look down the line!
And finally, after hours of practicing, I just started looking down the line, and it was a huge, momentous step in my surfing way back all those many moons ago. It was a game-changer. But it happened incrementally. It happened because I persisted towards what mattered to me.
Fast forward to this moment when this instructor is saying, “Look where you want to go”, and I’m like, “DUHHHH—look down the line!”
I was so caught up in the imagining of what snowboarding would look and feel like that I’d forgotten one of the most integral pieces of knowledge I already had in this weird brain of mine. I’d been staring straight down at my feet on a snowboard. I was back in my old habit.
There I was, on this mountain, re-remembering something I already knew deep in my brain, but I was so caught up in the anxiety and frustration that I’d completely forgotten.
I looked where I wanted to go, relaxed my upper body, and lead with my hips; I made it down the mountain doing S-turns the whole way. I laughed instead of cried when I fell because I knew in my heart I was on the right path. I remembered all those wipeouts on a surfboard—they were the steppingstones towards my growth.
Falling became part of the grand scheme of the beautiful journey instead of the indicators of failure.
I’d looked where I wanted to go and went for it, instead of looking down, or back, or around at anyone else.
Here I Am Again
And so today, I’m out in the water. Back in my element, back home. I remind myself: look where you want to go.
Ohhhhhh. OHHHHHHHHHH… Ha!
That is the lesson of my entire LIFE right now. Not just in surfing or snowboarding… in everything.
Because I’ve spent hours, days, MONTHS of my life looking all over the place. Looking at other people and what they are doing. Looking back to where I’ve been with regret. You have to reflect on the past to grow, but you’re not really living life if you stay there.
Starting your own business and looking around is part of the process. Learning from others and reflecting on your craft is crucial. Reviewing your experiences to grow. These are all par for the course. They are the wipeouts preparing you for a perfect session that’s coming all in due time.
But staying there? Staying in the mistakes and fears; staying in the “I could have done that better” doesn’t help you. Looking back, around, and down doesn’t teach you anything except the best way to fall on your ass.
This process of starting my own business, of loving myself, of becoming a more balanced person, has always been smoother and more natural when I remember, “Look where you want to go”, even when I didn’t know that’s what I was doing.
Looking where I want to go in the ocean has become as natural as paddling or duck-diving. I was out in the ocean today and I realized my very existence is a testament to looking where I want to go and then getting there.
I wanted to be happier and healthier. I got here.
I wanted to become a better surfer. I got here.
I wanted to recover from my eating disorder. I got here.
I wanted to write a blog. I got here.
I wanted to start my own business. I got here.
I got here by looking towards what I want and focusing on what matters most to me. Not by sitting in the comparisons, regrets, and wishful thinking of a life I’ve already lived.
(Although I still do that plenty.)
But I know that no one can point me in the wrong direction except me.
It’s the simplest things to remember that we most often forget. I’ve been surfing for years, but the minute I stepped onto a snowboard all my fundamentals went out the window. I’ve been growing and becoming more of who I am for years but sometimes all it takes is one bad day to forget just how far I’ve come. How I looked where I wanted to go and got myself there.
So, the next time I’m falling on myself, looking down and backwards and everywhere except to where I want to go, I’ll try to remember what’s so easy to forget.
I’ll settle down under all the noise and chatter. The anxiety and fear; the pain and the heartache; the regret and the frustration. I’ll settle down below all of that and remember.
Look where you want to go.
And then get there.