I sent myself to fear camp this winter. And man was it scary.
I had not planned on enrolling. In fact, I did not even realize there was a need. But then four people in five days all delivered the same message.
First, it was dear old Tommy. Then, an Argentine who would call up to me through the mogul filled forest in his sing-songy Medozan accent, “Confiiiaaanza Lauren, Confiiiaaanza!” Then, that same friend that basically almost nonchalantly tried to kill me. His version of love, I suppose. And then it was an O.G..
It was impossible to miss him, standing on the precipice exuding elegance across the valley. Bundled in a woven navy cable-knit sweater from the seventies, perfectly faded red ski pants, full head of grey hair as his helmet, the morning sun glistening off the wire frames of his vintage Raybans. He emanated a stoic peace, one that demanded respect while humbly blending into the horizon. It was either a Paul Newman incarnation or a bonafide legend.
A few laps later, I found myself on a chairlift with said Legend, and quickly turned off my Tom Petty ski tunes in hopes he may want to chat, which in fact, he did. “If I may,” he articulated, the perfect amount of gravitas blending into a Western drawl, “I have been watching you ski. You are great - but can I give you the one tip you need?” “Of course!” I exclaimed, goggles foggy with childlike excitement. “Confidence. You have it all but you need to unlock your confidence.” Well, that was that; when an O.G. elder speaks, you listen.
That very day, I signed myself up for a self imposed Fear Camp. I figured the only way to tackle this omnipresent message was to confront the fear that had abducted my confidence. So once a day, every day, I decided to find a way to scare myself shtless. Boulders, drops, cliffs. Waist deep powder, moguls, tight forests. NHL-worthy ice, straight lines, blind turns. I went for it, sipping a handshaken adrenaline-cortisol cocktail along the way.
With each fear-sweat, I combatted another element of trepidation, which naturally led me to start thinking about when I became such a scaredy cat to begin with. It had slowly creeped up on me, subtly encroaching on my perceived and actual capabilities, limiting me to its definition of confidence as opposed to mine.
Fear actually stems from the German verbal root, per, which means to try or to risk. When I remembered this, I realized that the fear that shrouded my confidence was enhanced, perhaps even spurned, by all my recent transitions.
Transitions are a part of life, but to someone like me, they are arguably the most daunting, painful, stressful experience one can have. There is a freedom that people from the outside extol; they see adventure, opportunity, privilege. “That’s amazing! This is going to be the best time of your life! Enjoy it!” they exclaim as our mind eats our stomach lining apart. But the reality is, beneath that perceived notion of ‘the best thing ever,’ there lies anxiety, self doubt, impatience…. and more anxiety.
The freedom others celebrate does not feel free at all; it is in fact so much freedom that it is too much. So you start to hold on and claw and cling on to what you can. And what you can is not necessarily what you know, but rather what makes you feel safe, which creates an inherent friction, one between logic and emotion, rational data and qualitative self interpretation, the conscious and the subconscious. This stress begins to erode one’s confidence, which is precisely how it ultimately gets kidnapped by fear.
As Fear Camp taught me, the only way to beat it is to face it. And so I did, quite literally. I smacked into a tree more than once, rolled down a double black more than twice. I screamed profanities to the moon and back, somehow always landing in one piece, smiling and longing for more.
We are all facing a new genre of fears, this after a long year of uncertainty. As you face yours, remember that self doubt and fear share a fine line. Rational thought and emotional interpretation share a delicate balance. But in the middle stands a magic. A magic that the mountains gave me just as the O.G. promised they would. And now that I have graduated, I can never let it go.