“39!” I shouted as I tried to stand after an icy fall on the final day of our wilderness trip on the Maine Huts Trail. We had just left our last hut, Stratton Brook, and were headed down the mountain to rejoin Chewonki Semester life. The previous days had been pleasant, with warm weather and clear skies. But today we were faced with an icy (and steep!) descent, and I, the world’s worst downhill cross-country skier, was on my 39th fall. I had gotten used to the falling by now, and learned to shout the number I was on to replace the frustration with laughter, but the relaxation I had at that moment was not always there. As we made our way down the mountain on the last day, I remembered back to the first day of the trip.
I realized just how hard cross-country skiing is about two minutes into the trip, by falling for the first time, flat on my face. I stayed down for a bit, feeling defeated and a little embarrassed, then got up and trudged forward. Shortly after that, I experienced my second (and third) fall, and got increasingly more frustrated every time. My mind was in a bad place as I got further and further away from my group. I still had a few people behind me, which made me feel as if I had to go faster as to not slow them down. I was tired, hurting, and annoyed, and I began to dread the rest of the trip. I stopped those behind me so I could get some water before continuing, and apologized for being so slow.
“Are you kidding? I wish we were going slower”, the girl behind me said with a smile on her face. It was then that I realized that my slowness was mostly in my head and that I wasn’t the only one feeling the stress of being out in the woods cross-country skiing for the first time. I felt a giant weight lift off of my shoulders as the people behind me and I skied at a slower pace for the next couple of hours, and the exasperation of my falls turned into laughter and fun for the rest of the amazing trip. If I hadn’t have gotten over the frustration I was feeling, I would have never enjoyed the 25 miles we skied or the memories we made exploring the Maine woods.
Tallying falls became a fun activity for the group, and after realizing that everyone was in the same boat together, I could truly enjoy the skiing as it was. I stopped seeing it as a competition in which I was being judged, and viewed it as a collective experience of laughter, skiing, postholing, falling and getting back up.
Jolie, The Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ
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