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"Fake It 'Til You Make It" Doesn't Usually Work.

After wrecking on the ski slopes in front of Mountain Man, I began skiing as often as possible so that I might get better at it, or at the very least, become more comfortable with my feet being glued to flat sticks. Mountain Man had planned us a ski-focused road trip to Colorado—more on that next week—from January 9th through the 19th, so I wanted to be as confident as possible by then.

When I wasn’t on the mountain, I was pretending to be a badass skier. For instance, I started telling people that I would be moving to South Lake Tahoe in May. It was all just talk, though; but perhaps I thought that enough talking could bring it to fruition.

But you can’t just delete the life you’ve already lived. Trying to do that without any sort of announcement to your friends and family results in an awful lot of questions. I didn’t consider this when I took off with Mountain Man to Colorado. Nope, I expected a fully-immersive, ski-bum culture shock, free from tethers to my old life. Instead, I was interrupted repeatedly by reminders of what I was leaving behind, mostly in the form of email.


Pieces of my old life, washed up on the shore

As I disappeared into the blue

Watch out, here I go

"St. Joan," Husky


Me disappearing into the blue while pieces of my old life wash up on the shore

The first reminder came on January 4th, before I even left for Colorado: my swim coach sent out an email to the whole college team to remind us that the 2016 season would start on the 18th of January. I didn’t want to tell her about my burgeoning interest in skiing and its diminishing effect on my interest in swimming, so I held my tongue, albeit guiltily, until a second email came in on the 12th, declaring that we were “less than a week away from the 1st DAY!!!” To my dismay, no sooner did I shoot off some “sorry-I-can’t-make-it” bullshit than she immediately replied, imploring me to come to the Athletic Department meeting on the 20th. I knew I could make it to that, but I said nothing in reply. I wanted to postpone making any plans until after I completed my eleven days of “cultural immersion” in Colorado.

But I was inevitably interrupted again. The very next day, January 13th, I received an email from my piano teacher, inviting me to a workshop in Berkeley on the 16th. This was a much more heart-wrenching moment for me than reading emails about swimming, because music wasn’t just a “hobby” or a learned strength that I once had—it was in my DNA. My father’s father was a musician, and my father had the gene, too, although he didn’t explore it nearly as much as his father did.

My dad's dad (bottom-left) with his band

When I met Mountain Man, I had reached a point in my study of music that I hardly had to practice. Each piece painted a story in my mind that always flowed forth through my fingers, through the keys, as easily as water from a spring. But my infatuation with Mountain Man had entirely removed piano from my radar. I don’t think I ever told him that I could play—it didn’t really fit, being a bum with a “renaissance” hobby.

In any case, I had to tell my piano teacher that I wasn’t able to come to the workshop because I would still be in Colorado on the 16th. I suggested that we get lunch when I returned and asked what days would work for her. She never replied. I think she knew I was slipping away.

On the 15th, my swim coach wrote to me again, seemingly impatient with my unresponsiveness. She reminded me that emails had been sent since November of 2015 announcing that the first day of practice was January 18th, so I should’ve had that on my radar already. I winced at this message, but again, ignored it.

As planned, Mountain Man and I returned to the Bay Area on the 19th. Sitting in the passenger seat on the way home, I received another message from my swim coach, saying that she needed my transcripts from last semester if I were going to compete this season. A pang of adrenaline shot through me as I second-guessed my choice to leave swimming behind. I’d been swimming since I was a kid, and what if this was my only chance to swim a second season in college?

Me doing my favorite stroke

Once again crippled by uncertainty, I didn’t write back to my swim coach. Instead, I did something that was relatively uncharacteristic of 2016 Xannie: something impulsive. I reached out to the coach of the women’s road cycling team I’d joined just before taking that nasty tumble off my bike in August of 2015. The following is what I wrote to her:

Hi [name omitted for confidentiality],

So I know this seems to happen once a year, but for REAL this time, I'm quitting swimming and plan to do skiing, cycling, and climbing instead.

Is joining [your team] a bad idea at this point, considering the following: 1) I'm moving to South Lake Tahoe in May, 2) I'm working almost full time and also taking 2 intensive classes (physics w calculus and computer aided drafting), and 3) I will be skiing nearly every weekend and I'm taking a sports fitness class in the evenings (though it's likely I can drop that class if I join your team and am riding most evenings and climbing on the evenings I'm not riding).

Let me know if you have any ideas for me! I am aware this is your racing season so I understand if now is actually a bad time to join...

Thanks! Xannie

I didn’t know it, but this email was a perfect illustration of a very curious development: impulsivity—one of the three defining characteristics of ADHD—was starting to make a comeback as I got closer to the ski-bum lifestyle.

Next week, we’ll explore the ski-bum culture and my immersive trip to Colorado. Then, I’ll explain how said culture impacted my neurology.

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