Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

That Incomparable Sensation of Being Whole

Our shuttle driver, a self-labeled “hillbilly” pattered on about having driven Shaun White around for three days without knowing who he was, about the million-dollar mansions on the hill that he’d put roofs on, where the Apache security helicopters parked during the wedding at the Ralph Lauren ranch, how fast he drove his hot rod when he wasn’t working, and how topless college students distracted him all the time in Telluride.  But we could tell, he also loved to just talk to us, to tell us the stories of this place that his family has lived for four generations.

This was the soundtrack to our ride out of the mountains surrounding Telluride, past icy clear streams, and along screens of skeletal birch trees and second growth pines, where risk-takers and adventurers have been pursuing dreams ever since the days when the gold mines hauled fortunes out of the earth.

When you look over the cornice, do you send it, or do you skirt it? How much are you willing to sacrifice?

My whole life, I’ve had my brother alongside me. To be in a room with him is to be utterly at peace. To talk with him is to know effortless conversation. I followed him around for 18 years, and now I’ll follow him and Julia down any run; even if it is out of my comfort zone, seeing them ahead of me gives me confidence. When Robert and Julia go on ahead, I push to keep up. Because of them, I improved hugely in my skill on steep mogul runs this week.

I never feel so lonely as in those first minutes after leaving their company, when I realize I’m on my own again. And now it feels I leave not only life with Robert and Julia, but also a life of knowing their baby from the beginning. A life of having spent more time with Heidi, before she was gone. A life of being just a drive away from family, friends.

Last night we watched “The Way I See It,” an hour and a half of freeskiing and ski aerials. The movie was equally full of mistakes and falls as about successful days. And it was also about achieving a dream – about skiing the line that they’d always dreamed of, or skiing in a place they’d never been before, finding a new mindset and way of challenging themselves. It was about having the picture of that one mountain on their laptop, skiing it in their head every night, coming back to look at it again and again and again.

I was reminded of advice that one coach shared: Every night, visualize yourself dancing as a champion, not just your best, but the best you could ever become…for you become what you convince yourself to be. Only: Who do I want to become? Half of that is a question for another time – the process of deciding how to be creatively oneself rather than simply the progeny of others’ ideas. The other half is the type of person it makes us when we follow our hearts.

When a freeskier dies in the backcountry, the others don’t stop skiing, don’t stop hurling themselves off those powder-thick peaks.  They say “that’s the end we agreed to when we decided to live in pursuit of thrill every day. That is true life, and true happiness.” "The Way I See It" was dedicated, at the end, to two skiers who had died following major accidents on the slopes.

As a dancer, I don’t risk my life every day. Big mistakes or happenstance don’t lead to my own death or the deaths of my colleagues. But I, as does anyone who pursues his or her passion, have chosen a lifestyle, and the daily pursuit of a feeling and a dream. For others, this passion might be founding and running a non-profit, working in a job we love, pursuing education, raising a family, or trying for a promotion. All of us expect that when we push ourselves, we will experience pain, and we will have to give things up. We do it anyway because when we do, we experience a happiness that comes not from someone else but from deep within ourselves, and we find that incomparable sensation of being whole.

No fear. No regrets. Life is too short (especially if you jump off cliffs).

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