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Ski like no one is watching!

Ski like no one is watching!

I was going to call this Blog “the dumbest kid in the class” but on reflection I thought it too negative and last year on 29th December  I blogged about one of my other learning escapades -Ballroom Dancing! The new title emerged: Ski like no one is watching!

My school experience, as it happens was a good one. While I changed schools a number of times I was better than average academically and was reasonably competent at sports. In primary school I could participate in the arts and was capable. So basically I had an enjoyable school life. My university experience was not flash academically but the time passed, I enjoyed it, had a good time and graduated. Other than graduating and playing a lot of sport my major achievement during this period was meeting my wife!

My work experiences overall have provided me with opportunities to learn and also have allowed me to have a sense of competence.

It was not until my mid 40’s when I commenced a series of learning escapades that all of a sudden I was “the dumbest kid in the class.”

I had watched at school when boys who for whatever reason were not doing well and in a range of circumstances saw them disciplined, humiliated, excluded and punished – all under the guise of learning and teaching. I had no comprehension of how debilitating it would have been for them.

To say my early skiing experience was humiliating is an understatement. Not being able to do something to an acceptable standard within a time frame when others could was now my experience!

A serious blow to my sense of self!

In this early stage I must say all the instructors I had were amazingly tolerant and supportive and there is no way I could have done this without them. A quiet word here, a follow me there, or a “you can do this” all allowed me to develop confidence.

However having instructors climbing up the mountain to help me stand up! Falling down, standing up, looking for skis in the snow, putting skis on, on what seemed to be perpendicular slopes, was a major challenge! Having the whole group waiting at the lift while I “slid” down the mountain was humbling. Falling at every new bump in the snow,leaning back not forward, being taken off the mountain on the skidoo because the ski instructor was worried about my health continued the humiliation. These were all experiences I could have done without!

But, they were an essential part of the learning! As I have explained to many people over the years in another life, no one ever starts at the top!

When I thought I could finally ski with a modicum of style (after some years) having my wife tell me I looked like an old man carrying suitcases was a real downer!! (why did I ask?)

I even had a friend suggest I looked like a “sack of potatoes on a sled” careering down the mountain!!

There was plenty of feedback most of it unhelpful!

Never in my life had I had such a confronting and challenging experience. It was “awful” but there was something in me that wanted this! Who knows where it came from and I decided I was going to master it! All of the pressure came from my own expectations!

For six years (30 days) I went to the snow. From group lessons to private lessons, back to group lessons, struggling on the green slopes when all my friends were skiing Blue and Black runs. The pain in the quads was just excruciating – why was I doing this? Pride, the challenge, the humiliation, and the pursuit of mastery once I had started. It was all part of it.

Gradually after much angst (time money and practice) I achieved a basic level of competence. I can remember the very first day when I reached the end of the day and was able to say, “Something good must be happening – I feel great and my legs are good. Amazing!” It was a memorable day!

Until then, everyday had been a struggle, a physical and personal struggle.

How long did it all take? Maybe it is best left unsaid – but if 10000 hours is what it takes to develop serious mastery I have a long way to go!

Since then skiing has been a wonderful experience. Every year I have tried to ski 10 days – Australia, Japan, North America and Europe. The travel has been wonderful and the skiing better. Skiing with my wife (my best mate) means it is an even better experience. Even if she is way better than me!

There are many stories about my “journey in skiing” but one is a highlight!

Two years ago we had the opportunity of skiing with our two sons and their wives in Austria – it was spectacular!

One outstanding memory does remain –Sally and I found ourselves (unintentionally) on a very steep slope about to descend quite for a few kilometers. Certainly it was a Black slope and we were challenged but when we got to a ridge about 200 metres down the hill and looked over it, there was ice! Lots of it! It looked like all the way down!

To go back or to continue? A short conversation then with our hearts in our mouths we continued. Tentatively at first, lots of sliding (edging) some traversing although it takes longer – on we went and then…. it seems like the slope got longer as we went. After what seems like the longest run in history we actually completed the slope- not always gracefully, but we did complete it. What an achievement – I was so “chuffed” I had done it and we had done it together.

That evening while glowing in my achievement I actually tweeted something like “ Double Black – Ice all the way – only taken 20 years!”

Not the dumbest kid any more!

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Ben Kehoe