“You’ll be fine,” said Glen.
I felt fine, excited even, as the ski lift took us right up the spine of Mt Ruapehu to the shoulder near the top. As we slowed down, he gently put his skis on the white earth and glided off the chair making hardly a ripple. Having never skied off anything before the thought of dismounting a moving chair onto a very tiny piece of a very tall mountain was petrifying. I froze as I realised the chair was not going to politely stop for me.
Let’s just say there was nothing gliding about my dismount.
Fuelled by panic I put my skis down and stood. Obviously the chair designers had thought about people like me, people who couldn’t propel themselves along gracefully on two large spatulas. The chair nudged the back of my knees, which gave me a fright, which toppled me over so then the chair was pushing me along the snow like a mother bear prodding its clumsy pup, skis dragging behind me, clattering against the metal bars, snow piling down my collar, people yelling at me from behind to get out of the way and me left with no dignity as I crawled sideways to get out of the way.
Glen, my friend, then expected me to get down the slippery mountain all by myself and the only flat piece of surface lay underneath the terrifying chair. That was it. Everything else sloped away. In my hired yellow onesie I was like custard refusing to stay on the plate. Eventually I told Glen to sod off and leave me alone as I half slid, half bum shuffled my way to the bottom.
Once there I headed straight for some mulled wine at the bar.
After rubbing my lady bits all over the side of Mt Ruapehu in my early twenties I was terrified of the white stuff. Boyfriends have vanished up mighty peaks and brought back tales of black runs and fluffy powder while I’ve pretended my study back at the chalet was far more scintillating.
Well you may have pumped raw adrenaline into your veins but I absorbed an entire chapter on Jung’s dream analysis.
Once I had the perfect learning situation in Merribel, France—a place where you ski straight from your apartment door to the nearby patisserie to collect your breakfast baguette. That is, if you can ski. Otherwise you get oats from the cupboard left by disgruntled Brits from last winter and make porridge. On day two of my ten days to becoming Petra Kronberger with an instructor who is so good Armani make his onesies, I knocked my big toe nail completely off its hinges in the shower. I wasn’t even up the mountain, but trying to get ready to go up the mountain and sabotaged the whole affair.
I had to sit around wearing my boyfriend’s size 13 shoe—the only thing that wasn’t painful—eat baguettes other people got for me, and devour the library.
And the truth was I was quite happy about it.
You may have gone off-piste but I finished The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I and II.
All my adult life I’ve assumed I will become a skier in oversized Armani goggles and pinstripe onesies because my friends do it. Because it’s what you do in winter. But it’s dawned on me lately that there is no other life over there. It’s right here. And in my case, on flat ground.
I don’t ski. The idea of a chair lift makes me want to drink mulled wine. Skiing makes me feel like a klutz. Skiing makes me feel shabby like I wasn’t bought up in the right suburb because my parents never took me. We liked sand in our family.
Skiing is not my thing. And life is too short to feel shabby about what we’re not. We can feel shabby about other things—like those moments when we accidentally laugh too hard, or we discover nobody’s scrubbed the back of the toilet for a decade, or when we see someone in the cheese section but pretend we don’t—but feeling shabby about what we’re not is about as useful as a toe nail off its hinge.
On Liz Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons, she talks about creating the unlist—writing the list of things you will never become because knowing what you aren’t makes you feel better about what you are. ‘Sharing an après-ski cocktail with Kate Middleton in a chalet in France comparing breakfast baguettes’ is now officially on my unlist.
Last week I was leaving super early for work and my daughter asked me to write a note so I wrote this:
I am awesome