Yo! Quick dispatch from VA. Hope your summer is going well and you’re not resorting to taking naps in grimy sluiceways that prompt people to call 911 upon discovering your motionless body.
How’s my summer so far? Well let me tell you. As if I haven’t already beat you over the head with tales of conquering fears—read the winter edition here— it turns out I wasn’t done breaking through terror to try a scary new thing.
Wakeboarding: different season, different gear, same stance and same immobilizing fear.
I’ve grown up on and around boats my entire life. Nothing about them really scares me, unless you’re doing counterintuitive, unnatural things like floating around behind them while they’re running, or being violently dragged after one. The way the prop ominously gurgles as it comes in and out of the water feet from your face is about as comforting as being locked in a room with a demon, watching it crouch over a stereo system while repeatedly turning the volume up and then down on a long, steady recording of someone vomiting into a toilet bowl. My favorite new track of 2017, guys.
Last year, I tried to get up on the wakeboard twice. Long story short, it didn’t happen, both times my hands quaking uncontrollably before I even got into the water, where nettles drifted around me and I’d hesitate for what felt like hours before responding to the hollered “Ready?” with a really uncertain “… uh, ready?”
After the first time, my hands were so beat to shit I couldn’t squeeze a shampoo bottle for 3 days, instead putting the thing between my knees and squeezing the contents into cupped hands like I was accepting communion for the last time. Time and time again, I was dragged face first into the hard water, rope ripped from my hands. The defeat was bone-penetrating, the effort, bravery and concentration required to fail over and over and over again erasing my dignity and resolve. The second time was on a grey, rainy, choppy day—waves slapping my face and arms as again, I was dragged face first over the board again and again. It was beyond disappointing, and ended in an unspoken refusal to ever try it again. But, come on—I’m a stubborn ass, so we knew I’d be giving it another go. That is, once I’d sufficiently explained to Chad in measured tones exactly how stupid and suicidal I thought the whole thing was.
“Fine. I’m fine with you never trying it again. In fact, I don’t really want to talk about it anymore.” Ha! A fair statement. I took it upon myself to watch a few instructional videos, one of which said “Relax your arms. If your hands hurt or get tired, you’re doing it wrong.” (Uh, advice for life, much?)
The next morning, the water was like glass. “I hate to even say it, but, if you wanted to try, now would be the time.” I stood motionless long enough for him to wave me off and walk away. A bit later I found him: “Took all my jewelry off. Let’s do this.”
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I maneuvered the boat out while Chad got things situated on the transom. “Are you crying?” To which I responded to by clipping my life jacket on and bursting into jagged sobs. Talk about deja vu.
I sat on the back bawling, and Chad squatted down and put his hands on my knees and said “It’s not supposed to be like this. It’s supposed to be fun. And it’s not gonna work if you’re this upset.” When my mind was telling me to keep crying and fold up into him for a hug, I bent down and adjusted the velcro with shaky hands and plopped my butt in the water.
Minutes later, I got up on my second try and haven’t looked back.
Decades of actively avoiding people, boats, or locations where I knew waterskiing was going to happen. Decades! And it only took one super patient guy and 36 years to get here:
I found myself sort of getting off on the power of it and the strength and focus it requires to stay upright and balanced and steady. Like, I didn’t know I had it in me—and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of that I’ve ever done.
My friend Cath texted me yesterday and said “But damn. You are conquering fears left and right.” And it’s totally true and also crazy and beautiful and unexpected and thrilling.
As easy as it would be to say “What took me so long?” I know exactly what took me so long. I’ve dated expert skiers, pro snowboarders, wakeboarders, whatever—and I always thought their never making me try it was out of some sort of caring, or respect for my wishes.
Now I see it’s really just that none of them cared enough to share it with me. And it sheds a whole different light on it all.
And also tells me I’m with exactly who I’m supposed to be with, at exactly the right time. That’s what took so long—but was totally worth the wait.