By Randy Pierce
This past week, I attended my second New England Visually Impaired Ski Festival hosted by Maine Adaptive and Sugarloaf Mountain in the wonderful wilds of Maine. As you might expect, there was a fair bit of skiing involved as well as some even more powerful lessons for life. As you read our blog, I invite you to think about becoming more actively involved in such an experience as a participant, a volunteer, or perhaps a connector to help others become involved in this tremendous opportunity next year.
It began with the legendary Erik Weihenmayer sharing his inspirational achievements in a powerful blending of his words and videos. Having reached the top of the tallest mountain on every continent, he set the bar high for anyone, but his continued drive to pioneer adventures through his “No Limits” team challenged everyone to determine if they were a quitter, a camper, or a climber.
The energy was high with the festival ahead and the knowledge many would share the slopes with Erik. Brent, Brian and I shared dinner with him instead but this included some planning for future adventure opportunities together. That would commence with an early morning TV interview on WSKI 17 to overview the programs and talk about our personal experiences with ski adventures and more.
(Randy’s interview starts at 8:35 on the video.)
Having spent my first three days on the slopes last year, my experiences were limited. Our first day this year was a reconnection to the Guide terms and feel of the mountain. Brian Leno captures a great video of Brent Bell guiding me from the front as we realize how much of the foundation we had retained.
We captured much of last year’s experience in words and video on our blog “Skiing Without Seeing” and as such I want to focus on a personal moment of growth which may have value for many of us.
I often want to challenge myself and can at times place an unreasonably high expectation upon myself. This pursuit of perfection in performance is often rewarding in achievements. There is a part of the process I consider a little broken. I am all too often rather hard on myself for not meeting my hopes. This really clicked for me poignantly when Brent Bell framed it playfully, albeit sarcastically, as “Hating myself into perfection!”
I’d like to think that hate is far stronger a reaction than I ever feel, but my expression at certain moments was trending so much more to the negative than I ever would believe healthy or even the most beneficial for the growth I’m trying to experience. Given my very strong belief in Ability Awareness over Disability Awareness, it’s almost comical I had been allowing myself to emphasize the lack of sufficient achievement rather than the celebration of the progress and perseverance.
I suspect I’m not alone in this private club of those unwittingly trying to “Hate themselves into Perfection” and I hope many will join me in dedication to stop paying dues to a less productive approach. Of course, if we slip a bit occasionally, we might remember to be gentle on ourselves for that failing as well and celebrate the attempt to always strive to be better.
So with that lesson understood if not entirely learned, I want to celebrate the participants, the volunteers, and the organizers of this incredible event. There are so many stories of all of those individuals facing personal challenge and reaching for the peak potential we always support with 2020 Vision Quest. In this we all share in the successful and inspirational tales of human achievement. I also want to celebrate all those who make the choices to strive towards such success and yet celebrate all progress and failings as part of the process. A part which includes appreciating the journey as well as the destination. Perhaps especially at this moment I want to celebrate my own goal to love myself in the failings and be stronger for that support as I reach again. Anyone with me?