Saturday, December 10, 2011

On Fear, Choice, and Community

Okay, here's the truth. I haven't been writing much lately, not because I don't have a lot to write about, but because I'm not sure what to put up here! As I get closer to the selection process, I feel like I should share less, just in case someone finds a wart on my nose or something...

But isn't that silly? I mean, the whole point of this was to really share what the PROCESS of heading to the tryout was like, to sort of look at it from a journalistic standpoint.

So, part of the process is that over time, you realize that you are kind of in a job interview all the time. And that everything you post, to a blog, to Facebook, to Twitter, is part of that interview. Our employers have so much more access to our "non-work" faces now than they ever did.

Ethan and I explore Tiehack Terrain on opening day at Buttermilk
But I like transparency. I mean, we are all people. We all go through tough stuff. And I hope that being authentic and true and really going through this self and life examination process, and being willing to do it in a way that is NOT whitewashed, but real, is helpful for others to know that they don't have to be perfect to persue their dreams.

Martha Stewart, while she has a great banana bread recipe, is not real life. Real life is messy, and that is part of its beauty.

Its true that over the years, I've learned that some things, while interesting to write about and really difficult and scary (and therefore interesting to share; facing that moment and choosing to be honest forces a deeper introspection and more careful decision making) aren't really appropriate to share while I'm on this path. This was the irony of this choice. Part of the decision making here (and it was one of the tougher decisions) was chosing whether to stay true to the intention of the blog and share all, or to stay true to the path and begin to edit.

It took some long walks with some smart people to make the choice. So far, in every instance, over time, the path has won.

I wrote a lot about my personal relationships over the years, because my decision to go down this road affects them. I really wanted other people who were trying to examine their lives to know that they aren't alone in that issue; going to grad school puts stress on the other parent. Training for the Olympics puts stress on everyone around you because you live that training as your job 24/7 for years. This feels similar to both, but there had to be some balance that felt honest to the path, but in service of my family, who I love, and whom, without, this would all really be pointless.

I was curious about what would happen, to me, to my kids, to my romantic relationships, to my family in general. How would changing careers and then dedicating myself completely to becoming a viable candidate affect my life and my relationships? Would it be worth it? Would I find a choice that would take me off the path?

I think this was really the thing that has helped me most in my personal growth along the way, looking carefully at those decisions. And you guys have been there when I've asked "at what cost?".

When I first started this, I didn't think there really would be a large personal cost. I assumed that I'd be able to balance it all, kids, working out, skiing, relationships. After all, we had kids when we owned the rock climbing gym, and it was fine. But our paths were the same then, and we were more well financed.

Looking back over the last six years, this journey has forced me to examine my wants and desires, my personal accountability, my integrity, my will, my love and make choices all the way. And I got tired of learning lessons and making choices. I wanted sometimes to have learned the lesson and be done. But another beautiful nugget I get to take away from this journey is that really, that never stops.

It doesn't matter if you reach the goal or not. The lessons, the choices, the difficulties don't stop just because you reach your career goal. The more you listen, the more opportunities for growth are presenting them in every choice you make, every day.

And leaning into that, accepting it, welcoming it, is part of the gift. Its like that annoying friend who always speaks her mind. You can either stop being friends, or be grateful for the honesty and get something out of it. Make a positive change for good. When you live with that annoying friend, and you are tapped on the shoulder all day long, it gets tiring. But if you want to strive for excellence, shouldn't you want to be excellent in your person first, and in your career second?

This journey has seen the loss of my marriage, and then has aided us coming back together as supportive friends co parents and even housemates. Having talked extensively since Tom moved here in July, we have realized that our paths, our decisions, were the best, healthiest, and hardest things we ever did. We are better people, better parents, and better friends for what we went through. Turns out we made good decisions. I do think there is more than one right decision at most turning points. But making the hard, best decision you can make is the point.

This journey saw the uprooting of my kids, my mother quitting her life for a year to help out, near total poverty, the collapse of another relationship, the total destruction of my truck, spine surgery...

So many times, I have called my mentors, who have been in this game longer, are waaaayyyy wiser than I, in tears, asking, "Am I insane? I mean, do I really have a shot at doing this? Am I ruining my life and the life of everyone around me? Or am I creating a better life for myself and my kids because I'm being true to myself?"

This is why, I think, we need to have a really good, personal motivation that comes from a really true place, and a group of people you trust to help you out. When things got confusing, and they did, many times along the way, I needed a guiding light out of that cloud of confusion.

Bodhi, stoic, ready to drop in.
Because this journey has given me a life that is more beautiful and true than any one I could have dreamed up. It has led me to Aspen, to a group of people that feel like family. It has given me hope, and joy, and friendships that are so deep.  It has challenged me to be more, to be better. It pokes at my deepest fears and begs me to let go of them. It has given my kids freedom and joy to grown and expand and learn in a way I never thought possible.

In the end, you have to make a choice. I think lots of times we miss opportunity for happiness or growth because we are afraid that growth will be uncomfortable to other people in our lives. So we chose familiarity over integrity to our souls.

And while we absolutely need to take the people in our lives into consideration, and make these choices with them, and in consideration of them, we also have to be true to ourselves. Sometimes, we have to be brave and make the hard choice.

Sometimes I wasn't sure if the hard choice was leaving the path that was shaping me, or continuing along it.

During these six years, that balance, holding that polarity, has been the biggest, hardest challenge of all. And as the tryout has gotten closer and closer, I have needed more and more from my family and support group. This is really not something you can do by yourself.

I needed help with my kids, financial support, guidance in my career choices, guidance in how to share on this blog, I needed resources, teaching, history, technical, eyes on the hill. Encouragement to run and lift and cycle and work. I needed to learn when to let go of the goal because I needed to balance family in a way that is nurturing for them, wow, I needed A LOT. (and I got one, Aunt A Lot came back from Argentina, and hugged me and said, GO KATE GO!)

Friday at 5pm was the deadline for uploading applications for consideration for the National Team Selection.

Thursday and Friday, I felt like I was being held inside a giant warm down sleeping bag of friendship. My mom was calling and texting and telling me how proud she was of me for making it this far. My sister was finishing 15 days of brutal boot packing, and she still called and offered her support. My ex husband was reading and editing my material and taking care of our kids. I re shot my video four times in the last week. This took the time and resources of four incredibly dedicated, giving people who went out of their way to help.

This wasn't due to a lack of planning, but due to a desire to really represent accurately myself to the selectors, and what I might bring should they chose to invite me.

And these people, my friends and supporters did it with such ease and grace, that I had to take the lesson about giving. I learned a lot about rallying around someone you care about and helping them achieve their dream from the people who came to my aid.

The video was reshot because one of my support group said, "Its not you. Reshoot it." I agonized over this. I had already had such support from so many, I was loathe to go back and say, "Hey, I need to do it again."

I faced that question again. In service of doing this right, really giving the best that I could, after training for six years and spending every single penny I had or made, moving my family, could I really ask for more? After leaning so hard on them through surgery, through so much...

The answer had to be yes. I respectfully requested help. Again. And here they came. Gladly. I felt lifted up, and we got it done. If I had a gazillion bucks, I'd throw the worlds greatest party for the people who have carried me here. I hope to hell I can carry many many more on their journeys. It is an amazing thing to have your team of friends rally around you.

Bodhi and Dad sharing the dream.
It came down to the wire (and I'll share that story shortly), literally to 5:00pm on the day of the deadline. But it all went up, and we all looked at each other laughing. It was over. It was up. It was in. I had actually applied for consideration for the team in 2012. But it turns out that I hadn't. We had. We did it together.

And I hope they call me in February and I get to go to the tryout. But right now, I feel like I've already met my goal. I got here. Looking back at the choices, the stresses on family and relationships, I'm grateful for the choices I made. The good and the bad. Each one taught me a lesson in balance, respect, perseverance. I learned to stand on my own to feet. I learned that I'm stronger than I thought. I learned that no one can do it alone, no matter how much they want to. I learned that its not about me at all. Its about all of us.

We are all connected, as so many before me have said. Our journeys are all the same, I think, we are all just trying to live the fullest, most fulfilling, most connected life that we can.

So in the end, I'm glad I stayed on my path. The life before me is the life I love, and I'm grateful that my kids watched me fight for it. Today, we all skied Buttermilk together on opening day. I felt like it was the culmination of six years of hard work. Yesterday, I taught my first sanctioned on snow clinic at Snowmass, my dream job.

And then, the next day, seeing my kids and their dad and aunt ripping around smiling just five minutes from our house with one clinic behind me and another one coming up tomorrow, I thought, we did it. We all did it. Together. And each of us is happier for the fight that got us here.

So to my readers, who helped me through some of those hard times over the years, thank you. Thanks for being real, honest, for having my back and pushing me hard. Thanks for holding my feet to the fire and asking me to write even when it was hard to come back.

You have been the thing that kept this train on the tracks, more than I could ever tell you.

With deep gratitude,


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