Social Media - The True Cost & Value

IMG_9459-e1510770936144.jpg
Before I get into this, I want to say something. YOU ARE LOVED. I know sometimes it may not feel that way, but it is true. Not only are you loved, but you have immense value to this world. And, you’re really cool. Seriously.

7 weeks. I went 7 weeks without a single Instagram post. Hardly anything on Facebook over the same amount of time. Twitter? Forget it. I’ve been opening my Instagram for the last few weeks, somewhat scrolling through my feed, blankly staring at my profile, pondering ‘what will I post, when will I post, if I post? What am I doing right now that is interesting, that people will like?’ Because, honestly, my desk job is quite boring (as far as Instagram is concerned). And I haven’t wanted to do much since I got back from the-trip-that-I-can’t-tell-you-about-for-a-few-more-months…I’ve been inside mostly. Or working on the house that my husband and I are building and helping my mom recover from knee replacement surgery. And working. And trying to get my website into a functional state, and trying to write my bio to appropriately reflect where I am (who I am?) at this stage in my life. And none of it is interesting in photographical form.  I could post an old photo, but what’s the point of that? That’s simply me trying to sell you on some part of me, which is only A PART of me, but not who I wholly am. But who am I wholly? Who are you? And who cares? I do.

The value of social media is something I’ve always debated. There is value and power there, but is it a value and a power that aligns with what I want in life? Does is support me and my loved ones in a compelling way? As I’ve taken a step back from social media, its “importance” has become more vivid. It is folded into our daily lives in a truly incomprehensible way. It is seemingly necessary. But why? It also became apparent, in my 30 days without a phone, that social media’s primary purpose is selling other people on something. Yes, even you are trying to sell someone on something. Yes, even me. If you’re not selling something, whether it be a product, an opinion, or a value, your post feels meaningless. But is it? At the very least, it doesn’t feel impactful. And if it isn’t impactful, who’s liking it?

If people will only “like” the most interesting and exciting parts of our lives, if we are constantly filtering our posts to show only those aspects of our lives, we are reinforcing some TERRIBLE patterns. We are reinforcing that we are only valuable if we are interesting, if we are fighting for some just cause, if we are daring, and bold, and beautiful, and edgily strong, and outspoken, and kind. But fuck that. WE ARE ALL VALUABLE. Even when the most interesting thing you do all day is add cream to your god damn coffee, YOU ARE VALUABLE. Hell, maybe you don’t even drink coffee. Guess what? STILL VALUABLE!

I’ve heard the argument that social media is a great way to connect people, to spread the word about (ahem, sell) a great cause, to make people aware of differing perspectives, to tear down barriers, to share, because as you know, there’s strength in numbers. But I’m just not so sure. After a month without a phone, I realized that there is more power in connecting with people around you. There is more power in connecting with a stranger, because they, most likely, will have a different perspective than you; at least more so than what shows up in your Facebook feed comprised of your friends or however their algorithm decides to show you information…

But I have returned. And why? I guess now I’m ironically trying to sell you on the perils of social media by using social media...such a hypocrite. Sadly, one of the first substantial things that I learned since returning to social media, is that one of my dear friends took her own life. I knew she was fighting an inner battle, had been through some rough patches, but from everything I saw on social media, she was winning that battle. Smiles, horses, dogs, bikes, friends, travels. These were the highlights in her reel. And no matter how many likes she got on these posts, no matter how many words of support and encouragement and love, it wasn’t enough. Suicide happened before the advent of social media, but the dichotomy that exists between what is inside and what is outside is far more transparent now. Not to mention there are scholarly articles written about the link between extended social media use and depression. Even more so than simply time spent online. We seem to be poisoning ourselves.

So, if there is one thing that I’m trying to sell, that I want to sell, it is this: please think about how you connect with people. Think about who you’re connecting with and how, think about the time you spend on social media and the true value behind the interactions you’re having, think about how you feel when scrolling through your feed. Does it bring you immense joy? Okay, then proceed. Does it make you feel down about where you are in life? Do feelings of envy or jealousy arise? Does it happen after seeing a specific person’s posts or when looking at most of your feed? Do you get stressed out thinking about what photo to “share?” Then maybe some changes are needed. Please, I beg you, unfollow someone if you experience negative feelings every time you see their posts. Even if they’re family, or a supposed close friend. If you want to punch in me in the face after you see my posts, then please, unfollow me! It’s not worth it.

Beyond how social media makes you feel, ask yourself how you feel in your own life, with your real friends who you see in physical form. Perhaps you don’t spend much time socializing with people in person. How does that make you feel? Content and happy? Excellent. Lonely and sad? Maybe this is an area that needs some work. Reach out to someone. Express how you’re feeling. Ask for someone’s time. We are all busy, but we all have time for a friend in need. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that we’re all in this juggling match called life, trying not to drop any balls, and prioritizing based on fragments of information. We don’t have the whole picture. Until someone says, ‘I’m feeling down and could really use some quality time with you,’ it may not make the cut. And instead of putting the onus on the hurting, try to reach out to someone today. A friend whom you may not have spoken to in a while. Let them know they’re loved. In Tricia’s words “be kind.”

It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.

― Mother Teresa 

 

My Father, A Dynamic Man

IMG_1532.jpg

IMG_1489 Dad was a dynamic man, a man of few words who always managed to teach so much. He was a man of great intellect—a genius, or gen-yi, as our family would say. I always knew this about my dad, but that aspect never defined him.

When people asked what my father did for a living, I had a routine answer. I was careful to delicately and slowly allow all of the pieces to surface.

“He’s a professor.”

“Oh. Well, what does he teach?”

“Computer science.”

“Really?! Where?”

“Um, at Yale.”

—Awkward silence—

On paper and without knowing him, my father’s résumé made him sound unapproachable, like he must exist in a different realm than the rest of us. This, of course, couldn’t be farther from the truth. What defined Dad were not the specific lectures that he gave, or the programming languages that he wrote, but the love that he shared, and the belief that he had in each and every one of us. My father was not just a mind and an ego, but a heart and an adventurous soul.

One of the greatest memories that I have with my dad was a mountaineering trip that we went on together with two of his colleagues. I was 12. The trip took place in April of 1999—we climbed Forbidden Peak in Oregon, which involved traveling on glacial terrain. I recently looked up some information about the peak to refresh my memory and laughed at what I learned. The website suggested taking 3 days to make the climb. We did it in two.

The hike in to the base of the climb involved some stream crossings and ultimately landed us on an open glacier with Forbidden Peak towering above. We found the surface of an exposed flat rock about 20’ by 6’ and made that our base camp. We pitched tents on the hard slanted rock because it would be warmer than pitching a tent on snow. In the morning we woke before the sun to begin our summit. It was my first time using an ice axe and crampons and the first time I’d been tethered to someone while “hiking” in case one of us was to slip. I’m not sure that my 110-pound self would’ve been much help to my dad then, but it certainly made me feel safer. The final approach to the summit was an exposed ridgeline with 1,000’ foot drops to either side; I can still generate the butterflies that I felt in my stomach by just thinking back to that view. Standing on the top of that mountain, breathing in the thin fresh air and feeling the warmth of the sun on our face made it all worth it.

But things got interesting on our way out and we came to understand why they recommend taking 3 days to complete the route. As the snow warmed up during the day, it melted into the streams that we crossed the previous day. Those streams had turned into raging rivers by our exit that evening. I remember being passed from shore to shore by my dad and his two friends, one of them would stand in the middle of the river on a semi-stable rock and would transfer me from one river bank to the other. We didn’t get back to our cars until well after dark, but we did something others may have said was impossible. We improvised.

Most fathers wouldn’t think of taking their daughter on such a trip, most wouldn’t imagine their 12 year-old would be up for it, but dad didn’t see me as a young incapable girl, he didn’t look at what I couldn’t or shouldn’t do, but at what would be possible. He saw me as his equal, even at that young age.

Dad believed greatly in human potential. He got you to understand the world better by encouraging you to try a little more, to push a bit harder, to take a leap of faith and attempt something you’d never done before. He facilitated our learning by motivating our trying. This was true whether it was computer science, soccer, lacrosse or jazz.

He lived this philosophy daily as he battled a terrible disease and tolerated relentless side-effects to his treatments. He just kept on trying. I was in awe of his perseverance and courage; I was baffled by his ability to remain positive and to remain kind, to his doctors, nurses, aids and all of us, at least most of the time.

My dad was my hero. Not because of how smart he was, not because of his accomplished career, or for being coach of the year, but because of his ability to love deeply and to share his zest for life with thousands of others—to prove that success in life is so much more than what society lets on. Success is about living passionately, cherishing the little things and reveling in the beauty and light that surrounds us.

My father’s death has left a great mark on my heart. But so too, did his life.

IMG_1532

FullSizeRender

Dare To Lead

DelicateArch_Arches.jpg

DelicateArch_Arches Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at the Dare 2 Lead Conference at Murray High School in Salt Lake City.  Dare 2 Lead is a state-wide leadership conference serving Utah's High School students aimed toward empowering students to become a force for good in their schools and in the world. Each High School nominated 2 students to attend the conference. Below is my speech minus the part where I introduce myself.  If you'd like to know more about me, visit the "about" page above.

Everything we set out to do in life comes from either seeking happiness: a sense of accomplishment, achievement or joy; or because we want to avoid what we fear: disappoint, pain, and struggle.  Ironically, setting out to do what makes us happy, setting goals and dreaming big often brings with it the potential risk of bringing on what we fear (heartbreak and sadness), but we can’t let that stop us.  I suppose that my mission in following my dream is to share with others that if it’s easy, it’s probably not worth it.  There is so much to be gained in the struggle. So here is my advice to you. 

#1: Follow Your Heart

Society doesn’t really want us to do the things we love; it wants us to do and seek the things it tells us we should love.  Society wants us to be driven by material things—wealth, fame, fancy cars, college degrees—but ultimately what will benefit the world the most is following your heart.  There is a quote from Howard Thurman that says, “Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  When I am following my heart, I am at my happiest and when I’m at my happiest, doors seem to open all around me.  I smile more, I say hello to strangers beside me on the airplane, I’m willing to share, and suddenly I’ve got a job offer or at the very least a new friend.

Following your heart also allows you to be internally motivated, not externally motivated to achieve.  What you are pursuing is sought for the love and joy that you have for it, not for what you are trying to attain at the end of the road. When you are internally motivated to achieve, you will keep yourself going, you will be able to push through circumstances that are less than ideal, you will be able to look past short term setbacks and stay focused on your end goal.

When I first set out to ski, it was all about the fun and love that I had for the sport. As I began getting my first taste of success and the benefits that success brought, I began to be motivated by external factors.  I needed to ski to keep sponsors happy, I had to beat my opponents, and I had to prove that I was the best (not just the best that I could be). This sport that I was once passionate about became a job and as a consequence, my results began to suffer.  Interestingly, that was around the time that I had to deal with the hardest news of my life, that my father had a rare and progressive form of Leukemia, a year later, I tore my ACL, meniscus, cartilage, and posterolateral corner of my right knee, and just after that, a friend and fellow competitor crashed in the halfpipe and passed away from injuries sustained. To continue skiing was only worth it if I still loved it.  In the last 3 years of my competitive career I have had some of the best days on the hill despite not having landed on a podium since 2011, a feat that at one time was almost guaranteed.

#2: It Is Rare To Find Success Without Failure

"Failure" has a really a bad rap, but failure has been my biggest ally.  First of all, it takes many "failures" to be successful in the end- it is a natural and necessary part of the process in any pursuit, to fail along the way. When I first started skiing competitively things didn’t go so well… my first mogul competition I fell 4 times in one run! I remember feeling so embarrassed that I wanted to crawl into a hole.  There are so many parallels to my journey as a young girl just entering this sport to my journey now as an accomplished pro.  Setting aside the ego, ignoring feelings of embarrassment and shame, feelings of not fitting in or being understood, feelings of doubt—these are all issues that I continue to manage, just with a greater awareness now, it is a conscious decision everyday to press on despite setbacks.

My first 2 years competing at X-Games I finished 2nd to last, but every year I showed up with more vigor, more fire and more motivation. I didn’t allow my doubts and fears to stand in the way of accomplishing my goal.  I knew that one failure didn’t mean that I would continue to fail forever; it was just an indicator of where there was room for my skiing to improve.  I didn’t let my failure define me.  Failure brings with it great opportunity for growth and learning if we are willing to endure the lessons it offers. My 6th year competing at X-Games, I finally won Gold, despite having a cold, being 10 months out of a major knee surgery and being beat in qualifiers by a young up and comer.  I knew it wasn’t over until all 3 finals runs had been skied.  Don’t let that glimpse of failure, that threat to your pride and ego, take you away from what you are trying to accomplish, and even more than that, don’t let it push you away from what is in your heart.  Your failures, nor your successes, define you.

# 3: Happiness Is A Decision

Things may not turn out the way that we expect, but that doesn’t need to control our happiness.  As much as I want to encourage each and every one of you to dream big, to not place limitations on your potential, our value does not lie solely in what we are able to accomplish.  In fact, the results and outcome of our goals are often out of our control due to external factors.  We can only do our best on any given day with the tools that we currently have. What matters is how we handle ourselves when things don’t go our way.

Of all of things that I have achieved in my career, one of my proudest moments was this past winter. In December, at our first Olympic Qualifying event, I landed a trick and tore my ACL, meniscus and cartilage in my left knee.  I wasn’t the only athlete to be taken out this way this winter—it is a risk in our job and one that the majority of us accepts and considers worth taking for the potential reward. There were so many reasons for me to be devastated this winter, to be bitter and jealous of my younger teammates who would ultimately qualify for the Olympics and represent our nation in the event that I advocated for so many years to be a part of the Games. But I took a step back and said, “I don’t want to be sad, I choose to be happy.”  As much as there were valid reasons to be sad in missing out on what I was certain would have been a part of my future (becoming and Olympian), there were so many more reasons to feel happy.  First of all, I confirmed that I wasn’t insane to think that halfpipe would someday be a part of the Olympics and it made for an excellent show.  Second of all, I was pretty darn close to becoming an Olympian, which is more than a lot of people will ever be able to say and I am proud to have come so far.  And finally, dozens of my friends became Olympians this year and I got to cheer them on and celebrate in their accomplishments.

There was nothing more that I could have done in my quest.  I couldn’t control the fact that I got injured and some day, you might have a negative experience that stops you just short of your dream. What matters, and where our true value lies is not so much in what we do, but in how we do things. Win humbly, lose graciously, don’t forget where you came from, be grateful for what you have and what you have accomplished and always respect those around you, especially your competitors- they are more like you than you know. Choose happiness.

#4: The Only Moment That Matters Is The One You Are Currently In

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve wasted stressing about things out of my control. We cause ourselves undue stress and worry over things that have happened in the past and future events that haven’t even happened yet! In reality, the only moment that we can experience is the moment we are currently living in.  We can’t change the past, we just have to accept it and do our best to learn from it, not be paralyzed by it.  Coming back from injuries is one of the hardest aspects of my job because I have to set aside the fear that I have from past events and convince myself that things can be different in the future.  The way that I do that is by staying largely focused on the present moment, reminding myself that I possess the skills to do what I am setting out to do.  There is a great quote that says, “if you have a problem and there is a solution, then there is no need to worry.  If you have a problem and there is no solution, then there is no need to worry.” We can only deal with a situation when we are in it presently.  When there is nothing you can do about a problem or challenge, we are best served by accepting it and making the most of what the present moment has to offer.  That’s not to say you should run through life without making plans or setting goals, but do so with flexibility, so that you are able to enjoy the moment you are in.  Don't dream so big that you forget what is right in front you.

#5: Letting Go Is Different Than Giving Up

The path that I had outlined for myself, the story that I had scripted for my future, changed dramatically this winter when I injured my knee.  But because I was willing to let go of what was supposed to be, I was able to take in the experiences for what they were, and they ended up being very fulfilling.  Throughout my career when I would have bad contest days, or a trick was frustrating me, or I wasn’t feeling respected by my sponsors, my dad would always tell me to “let it go.” I would always respond with “I don’t want to let it go! I’m not a quitter! I need to prove that I can do it!”  It seemed that there was always more to give.  But when is enough, enough?  “Letting go” is in fact the hardest and scariest thing to do because it feels so similar to “giving up,” but letting go, is different than giving up.  For so long we feel that we are driving our dreams, but sometimes that dream begins to drive us.  We are no longer in the driver’s seat, because our dream has taken control of the wheel.  Realizing this has been liberating and simultaneously terrifying.  I am now at a juncture in my career, a transition year, like many of you find yourselves today, where I am asking “what next?”

All I have known for the last decade of my life is what it means to be a professional skier. My identity and purpose has been wrapped up in skiing much as your identity has been tied to being a student, an athlete, an artist, musician, etc.  All of these pieces will remain a part of us, but if we aren’t willing to let go of our former identities because we feel we are “quitting” or “giving up” on what we were “supposed” to do or be, we are denying ourselves ultimate happiness.  Remember the first tip that I gave you all—“follow your heart”—sometimes what is in your heart changes but we are so entrenched in our current path that we don’t notice until our unhappiness nags hard enough that we take a deep look inside.

“The death of a dream can in fact serve as the vehicle that endows it with new form, with reinvigorated substance, a fresh flow of ideas, and splendidly revitalized color.  In short, the power of a certain kind of dream is such that death need not indicate finality at all but rather signify a metaphysical and metaphorical leap forward.”  Aberjhani

So, take a look inside, where is your heart guiding you now?

 

Stop Story-lining and Start Living

SochiBWFinal.jpg

We are told from a very young age about these things called goals and dreams.  Some of us are taught not to chase dreams because they are unattainable, others are told to “dream BIG!” because anything is possible, and some are just in between, directionless.  For those daring enough to dream, to set goals that will take some time to achieve, the road can be rocky.  Why?  Because that is how it is, the reward of chasing your dreams lies in the process, overcoming obstacles and growing as a person along the way.  But sometimes we make ourselves miserable during this process.  Why?  Because we write storylines.

When I first ventured into halfpipe skiing I didn’t really know what it was, what it would mean if I was good at it, or how it could possibly affect my future.  So I did it purely because I loved it, it was fun and it engaged every part of my attention, my body and mind at once. Absolutely enthralling!  Within a short period of time, I began experiencing success. Then I began to PLOT MY FUTURE (imagine this being said in Denzel Washington’s voice over a megaphone).  I began to imagine my future life (XGAMES GOLD MEDALIST, FAMOUS PRO SKIER, MAGAZINES, MOVIES, blah, blah, blah) down to the tiniest details.  But more than imagine, I began to feel entitled to this future, and when things didn’t fit in with what I had imagined, I struggled. Hard.  I would create such a concrete idea of “what my life was” that I would force-fit people, places and things into my imagined reality.  Trying to craft and mold and control the world around me.  I also fabricated this concept of “permanence” that once I achieved x, y and z that those things would be with me forever (true) but also that they would continue to happen on and on, for eternity; that the satisfaction in achieving said goal, would be one that would constantly bring my joy and satisfaction forever. False.

When you create such a false reality, when life throws you a curve-ball (like your dad has a very rare and aggressive form of leukemia) the illusion begins to crack and fade, become sheer, until you can see right through it.  That piece (dad with cancer) didn’t fit into your imagined reality, but it happened.  Then you start questioning what you’ve created. Everything you’ve convinced yourself of begins to fall apart.

We do this kind of story lining a lot.  Like when we me meet a wonderful person with whom we want to fall in love.  We focus on the aspects of that person that fit into our created, imagined reality of life, our ideas of what we want and need become the only pieces of that person that we see.  But eventually it catches up with us and this character that we created to fit into our fictional world is no longer hiding.  We begin to see the other pieces and sides that we chose to overlook in the beginning, and the pieces no longer fit- right shape, wrong color; right color, wrong shape.

I just finished watching a movie called Ruby Sparks about a writer, Calvin, who began writing a love-story about meeting his ideal woman, Ruby Sparks.  As his story went on and more and more details were created, Ruby became real, Calvin manifested her into existence, and she appeared living in his home. But over time Ruby needed to be who Ruby really was, not Calvin’s Ruby, and the love story began to fall apart.  The more Calvin tried to control her with his writing the worse things got.  Ruby was pushed away by this overbearing grasp.  It wasn’t until Calvin was able to release her and return her freedom to her, that Ruby was able to reenter Calvin's life in another form. This is an extreme metaphor for this “story lining” to which I refer, but it is surprisingly accurate.

We cannot possess anything in life fully, not a goal, not a person, not a dream.  The only possession that we have is within ourselves.  Everything else will come and go, some people and things will stay bonded to us for longer than others, but everything is temporary.  All that we seek in life, money, success, love, family, it is all fleeting.  So stop wasting time writing the storyline of your life and start truly living life for what it IS!

It begins with being conscious, being present and aware of your thoughts.  When they start running wild and taking you to made up places of the past and future, bring yourself back to the current moment- the reality that is unfolding before your eyes.  This doesn’t mean that we can’t set goals or dream BIG or imagine the kind of person we want to be with, it just means we need to be real. Real with ourselves about what IS here in front of us.    Let go of expectations, of definitions, and bask in the beauty of what IS.

Because ‘what IS’ is truly all we have.

reIGNITED

In January 2005, I found myself in Aspen, Colorado for my first winter season out west.  I was an eager 18-year-old girl from the East Coast, ready to take on the freeskiing industry, set new standards and win the X-Games. I was full of fire, ambition and fight. I talked big game, I was over-confident, very excited, and underprepared.  I walked away finishing 9th out of 10 competitors that year; falling on nearly every run of a generous 3-run final.  Every year since 2005 I have returned to Aspen ready to compete; always a little more experienced and filled with the perfect balance of excitement and anxiety.   To this date, I have 5 Winter X-Games medals and 2 golds in halfpipe skiing. This last Wednesday, January 25, I had a stirring of butterflies in my stomach as I exited I-70, routed CO-82, and headed the 35 miles toward Aspen.   However this year, the butterflies were not in anticipation of competing in the most prestigious event in freeskiing, but for an entirely different reason.  You see, two weeks prior, several distinct events took place that would change the course of my life.

At 6:45 a.m. on January 10, 2012, my alarm went off.  I stirred, hit the snooze button, shifted my body slightly and closed my eyes again.  I could hear the distant voices of my US Freeskiing teammates and coaches in the kitchen- raring to go.   We had sled laps starting at 7:30 and they would only last until 9 a.m.  But I wasn’t feeling it.  I made the decision to sleep more, to let myself acclimate- it was my first day in Breck, I didn’t need to be taking sled laps at 7:30 in the morning.  About an hour later I pulled myself out of bed- headed to the kitchen for a leisurely breakfast in a giant, quite house, abandoned by my eager teammates.  My phone rang- my best friend and teammate for years, Jess Cumming, was on the line.  She asked what my plan was for the day and I told her: I was tired, and not rushing out, planning on taking a mellow first day here to get ready for the weeks and months of chaos ahead.  Jess was more than okay with my plan.  As it was, she was coming over to Breckenridge to announce her retirement to our staff of coaches.  I understood. Part of me was envious of her decision.  To step away from all of the pressure, the expectations, the risk, the hard work; it sounded nice.  But I was not done- there was more that I still wanted to accomplish out there on my skis- I wasn’t ready to turn it all in.

The weather was gorgeous in Breck- warmer than usual, sunny, not very windy- and I was out just to have fun. I followed the boys off of the bottom two jumps in Freeway after hitting the pipe and was pleasantly surprised at how soft the landings were.  The jumps were much bigger than the jumps in Park City, but felt better because Breck wasn’t having the same thaw and freeze cycles that we were experiencing in PC.  After a few laps I met up with Jess and a few other girls.  I skipped the jumps for a few runs and then went back to them about an hour later.  As I got to the start of the bottom two jumps I thought I knew the speed.  I cleared the first jump and then went into the second jump.  As soon as I left the top of the jump I knew I made a mistake.  I was coming up short and I tried to prepare myself for the impact...  With all of my effort trying to stretch for the landing, to wriggle my way over the knuckle, but to no avail.  The impact was too great and my knee erupted. I began sliding down the landing and didn’t have the muscle control to pull my leg into my chest.  I rolled over my leg twice and continued to slide, until I came to a stop.  Expletives were flying out of my mouth because I knew I was done. Done for the day, for the year, for the rest of my career?

Over the next few hours I got X-Rays, scheduled an MRI, and tried not to be too discouraged. My phone was ringing quite a bit, and around 2 pm I got a call from Meg Olenick. She wanted to check up on me, but there was something else going on; I could tell by the unsteadiness in her voice. “Sarah took a bad fall, Jen.  She’s being airlifted to the hospital.  Her heart stopped for several minutes.”  My brain, heart and body went into emotional overdrive.  Everything began to hurt more.  But there was no reason to stress yet. Sarah is the strongest girl that any of us know- tougher than nails. She will be fine. Sarah is always fine.

I received the results from my MRI- it appears as if a bomb went off in your knee.  Your ACL is completely gone, you’ve torn your medial meniscus, there seems to be a floater in there- a piece of bone perhaps, and you’ve compressed your femur- there is a large indentation on the femoral condial and a disruption to the articular cartilage surface.  To be honest, I wasn’t surprised.  With how that impact felt, I’m glad that that was it.  Right now, I just wanted to get back to Utah, to be closer to Sarah and her family, to sleep in my own bed and begin processing what was going on.

The next week was an emotional rollercoaster.  There was very little news leaving the hospital regarding Sarah’s condition.  We were all operating under the guise that no-new-is-good-news, but somewhere in my heart things did not feel right.  Ten days after Sarah’s crash, she passed away.  The damage in her brain was irreversible and there was nothing that anyone could do to bring her back.  At this point, time came to a complete stand still.  It felt as if the whole world stopped turning, yet everything continued on around me.  The Winter Dew Tour in Killington was taking place that weekend and athletes would be expected to compete- Sarah weighing heavily on their minds.

So as I exited I-70 on Wednesday January 25th and had butterflies in my stomach, it wasn’t because of the prospect of winning another X-Games gold (that wouldn’t be happening, I wouldn’t be competing), but because it was time to be reunited with my extended family after Sarah’s passing. I wasn’t sure how I would feel.  Would I feel comforted being with everyone? Would I harbor resentment, envy?  Would I question the purpose of all of this? Would I feel deeply saddened, angry, mad?  The answer is yes.  But then I would ask another question: why?  And to that I would find many answers.

Everywhere I looked, I saw sympathetic faces. Faces that said, “I can’t believe this happened, I am hurt and sad and scared, but more inspired than ever.”  Every time someone smiled, it was Sarah smiling through.  The whole industry, ski and snowboard alike, was united, and for the first time, it felt as if we were all in this together. The boundaries that Sarah broke for female skiers were uncanny- there are too many to name in one short article, but what became even more apparent this last week, was how much she touched the lives of every action sports athlete, female and male alike.  You see, Sarah embodied what we are all about: perseverance, breaking boundaries, setting new standards, doing it because we were told we can’t, making something out of nothing, skiing because we love it.  They say the brightest flames burn half as long, but I don’t think Sarah’s flame has been put out. I think Sarah’s flame has just been ignited for the first time.  Now, more than ever, people are hearing about Sarah, listening and understanding her intentions, comprehending what she was about and finding ways to implement that into their own lives.  She is changing the world.

As I sit here, writing this 3 days post knee surgery, reflecting on the coincidence of blowing my knee on the same fateful day that Sarah crashed, I cannot throw in the towel and say, “I’m done.”  Now, more than ever, is the time to shift my perspective and remember why I started down this path- aspiring to one day live like Sarah Burke.  Life is only worth living if we are doing what we love.

And with a broken heart I say, thank you Sarah, for everything you have given me in the past, and every gift you will be giving me in the future.  For you, I am eternally grateful.