Kristin: Birthday #tryingstuff

Today’s #TryingStuff post comes from Kristin. Kristin is a New York City based poet who also blogs at Not Intent On Arriving (where she kindly featured me as part of her Writer’s Wednesday this winter) about travel and living life.

Whenever I imagined how I would celebrate my golden birthday, I always pictured opening my 28th year in a gold sequined cocktail dress. There would be champagne and karaoke. I would be a more perfect version of myself – fancy, social, and singing in public – an elegant version of my usual down-to-earth self. When I found myself instead sitting in the chilly lodge of the Clarence Fahenstock Memorial State Park, trading out my hiking boots for a pair of cross-country skis, I didn’t look quite like I’d pictured myself, but the idea was still the same. I was a better version of myself. I was me, but adventurous.

I was about 40 feet from the lodge when I fell for the first time. I had clipped into the fronts of my skis, and was pushing myself pretty quickly along the pre-made track when I started to feel myself losing balance even as I was gaining speed. Like I always do when I’m losing balance, I leaned heavily backward into my heels to stabilize. Apparently, this is not the thing to do when you can’t stop during cross-country skiing, and maybe when you can’t stop during other things in life. Sometimes, you’ve got to lean into it. I tumbled off to the side, and embarrassingly, couldn’t get myself onto my own two feet. A family that appeared to be at the park for tubing took pity on me and between the four of them, managed to get me upright again.

Adventurous me, I had hoped, would be instantly talented at cross-country skiing, even though I’d already tried it without much luck four years ago and even though I have been instantly talented at precisely nothing in my whole life. Talk about setting yourself up for failure. As I shuffled along to where my partner was waiting for me (a fellow non-talented adventurer, he wasn’t able to turn around and help me fast enough), I decided to let go of the idea that being adventurous was something I could succeed at and cross-country skiing something I could excel at instantly, and focus instead of enjoying myself.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the two beginner trails that were open. On our previous excursion, we had contented ourselves with trying each of these paths once, and then moving on to hillier, more difficult trails. While I think it’s important to challenge yourself, I don’t remember having nearly as good a time that first trip out, and I think it might be because we never let ourselves enjoy the process in our hurry to become experts. This time, we explored what felt like every nook and cranny of the paths we were on. We did each of the smaller loops multiple times, and then made a larger loop between the two trails and the lodge twice.

The trails led us around a level field (and past some people snowshoeing – maybe that will be our next adventure!) and alongside the lake where they have swimming in the summer. Everything was frozen-over and still, and although we were often in the presence of other skiers (many of whom blasted right past us with gorgeous form), the experience felt solitary and beautiful. For the first time in a long time, things felt peaceful and I felt like myself. Not a better version of me, just me as is: struggling to keep my breath and my balance while still taking in all of my surroundings. Somehow, after nearly three decades on earth, that was finally enough.

In total, we were outside for about three hours, and as far as I can estimate, we skied about seven miles. There were more spills, my legs and arms felt sore, and I don’t think either of us ever figured out how to ski downhill without crashing into something to stop, but it was the most fun I’ve had all winter. With the freezing temperatures lately, we’ve been bundled up inside or working out at the gym, and I think I’d almost forgotten how wonderful being outside really is.

Taking in deep breaths of cold air and completely exhausting myself on something wonderful are two feelings I haven’t had in a long time, and I didn’t realize how much I missed them. Although it was hard at times and I didn’t magically become graceful and coordinated, cross-country skiing was the best way I can imagine to start my 28th year. Now I’m looking forward to what comes next: a year of trying new things, spending more time with nature, and getting more active with the person I love.

2 Replies to “Kristin: Birthday #tryingstuff”

  1. Happy Birthday!! I just had my birthday as well (though my golden birthday was some time ago as I was born on April 3rd 🙂 ). Your description of how being out in the snow and woods made you feel resonates with me so much, especially this birthday. I started backpacking three or four years ago and I was so out of shape, but I kept going out because it made me feel like myself again. After college, marriage and then struggling financially through the downturn, I felt very much not like the person I knew in high school, but something about getting out into the woods makes me feel like that person again.

    1. Thanks so much, Joslyn, and happy birthday to you, too! It’s incredible how just a little time with yourself, out and about in the world, can refresh and center you. I’m looking forward to doing a little more hiking this summer, too. I’ll definitely check out your blog for some backpacking tips!

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