“Alright, it’s time to go. If we’re going to catch that window, we gotta leave now.”
The bacon’s still sizzling when my uncle comes out of the bedroom. My cousin and I are spending the weekend down at my godparents’ lake condo. We just want to relax from daily life, go skiing, boating, the typical lake activities. It’s always unclear on when we actually head out to ski because no one has a schedule. However, if we go out too late the lake will get choppy or busy with traffic that skiing will be less enjoyable. You’d have to dodge debris and other boats, and survive the waves when they come through. My aunt started making breakfast for those who were up and I didn’t realize my uncle already has the boat ready. My cousin is still in bed.
“Is she alive in there?” My uncle asks, motioning to the room where my cousin is sleeping.
“She was breathing when I walked out of the room,” I reply. It probably wasn’t the answer my uncle was looking for, but it made my grandma laugh. My uncle heads back to his room without a word.
I look at my aunt. Are we going? Should I change into my suit? Wake my cousin? But she’s still sizzling the bacon and when I ask she says my uncle is probably in the bathroom and might be a minute. So, we’re not going yet? The uncertainty doesn’t help my anxiety. I love skiing and if you ask any of my family members, they’d tell you I’m a great skier. However, I’ve learned the hard way one too many times what happens when I start getting cocky on the skis. I’d wipeout–bad–or I’m not able to get out of the water at all. Other times, I start overthinking the process and I start frustrating myself instead of just enjoying the ride. Everyone in my family says I’m a great skier, and I’d hate to prove them wrong. Normally, I only ski once a year during the Diekemper Lake Week, but since my cousin and I came to visit for the weekend, I get the chance to go twice this year. Maybe if we eat breakfast first, I’ll be able to better mentally prepare myself.
Regardless, my cousin needs to get up. So I slip back into the room to check on her. She’s awake and ready to hit the bathroom for her morning routine. I decide not to change yet since I don’t actually know if we’re going out or not. Yet, when I head back into the kitchen my aunt is asking my grandmother to take over the bacon while we’re gone.
So, we’re not eating breakfast first. I have to swallow down my nerves. My uncle comes out of his room and tells me to get my suit on and heads down to the boat. I’m trying to mentally prepare myself while I change, but I can’t shake the anxiety. My cousin already said that she wasn’t going to ski because of her shoulder issues, which means that I’m the only one going. It felt like a lot for them to take the boat out so I could ski for 10-15 minutes. Which means the family spotlight will be on me. Which means I better be able to get out of the water so that them getting the boat out is worth it.
I’m not sure if I hid my loose nerves very well, but the next thing I know we’re all on the boat and heading out over the water.
“Whoever’s going first, get ready.” My uncle tells us.
My cousin immediately points at me. “Nikki’s gonna shred those waves, right Nik?”
Good grief, I hope so. I just smile back at her and focus on rubbing sunscreen on my skin. I don’t know why I’m so nervous. Like I said: I love skiing. Always have, but I’ve got this terrible pride factor of not wanting to look bad. My family is full of great skiers. My grandpa used to take my dad, aunts, and uncles out a lot. A few of my cousins can do it really well. What if I can’t get up this time? I mean, when I get tired, I struggle to get up and I’m still sore from work. What if this trip on the water is all in vain?
But there’s not use in showing my hesitation and talking about it would only bombard me with “Oh, you’ll do fine! You’ll crush it! You’re a great skier. Etc. etc. etc.” When the sunscreen is soaked in and I’m squished in my life vest, I go to the back of the boat.
“Are these the skis you use?” My uncle asks me. He and my aunt pulled a blueish-purple pair out. It’s their smallest pair of skis.
“I think so?” I reply, trying to sound confident. Since I did this in June, you’d think I’d remember which ones I wore. Yet, in my defense, there were a lot of skis getting swapped around in June. The best way for me to test these skis is to stick my foot in one. It’s an ungraceful struggle, but my foot fits. “Yup. Those will work.”
Now comes one of the worst parts. The sun is nice and warm overhead and its making the boat a buttery toasty–just the way I like it. Yet, if I’m going to ski, that means I gotta jump off this warm and toasty boat and into the water. The who-knows-how-cold water. Again, I didn’t want to seem hesitant, so I jumped right in.
Eyes closed and nose plugged, the sheer jolt of cold I was expecting didn’t send shock through my nerves. It was nice and refreshing like a waterfall in the middle of the woods. Not gonna lie, it felt good to be in the water again.
“Did your heart stop?” My aunt asks me when I resurface. She’s crouched on the edge of the boat with the skis in her hands.
“No,” I smile. “It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”
She passes me the skis one at a time and nervousness flutters in my heart once again. The skis slip on easily in the water and they’re still as awkward as ever. I take deep breaths as I wait for the handle of the rope to get to me. The moment of truth was coming up. Would I be able to stand up? In June, I stood up right away, but after I got tired, I couldn’t do it again. I can still feel the ache in my arms and shoulders from carrying dog kennels the day before. What if I loose my grip on the handle the moment the boat shoots off? What if my legs spread the moment I say “hit it?” What if I shift my weight wrong? What if a wave hits me and throws off my balance the moment we go? I’ve got the handle in my hand and I already feel the tug off the boat. I don’t think I’m ready to do this yet.
It’s like riding a bike.
A slow breath slips from my lungs. Words that my grandpa used to say come ringing into my mind. Keep your skis straight. Sit like you’re in a chair. When the boat goes. Just stand up.
“Right,” I mutter to myself. I’m getting too into my head about this and that’s the last thing you want to do while skiing. It’s better to just “hit it” and go and let instinct take over. Like riding a bike.
I get myself into position. “Slack off!” I shout to my uncle and he gets the boat in gear. The rope tightens and I feel its gentle pull. I’m getting my balance in the water when I notice I’m losing the straightness of one of my skis. I could try to fight it to get it back in place, but there’s no telling what else I might lose while I do that. “Hit it!”
My uncle guns it. My arms tense under the pull of the boat. “Stand up! Stand up! Stand up!” I rapidly tell myself. There isn’t really a way to describe the feeling. One second, I’m in the water with anxiety festering like a knot inside me and the next, I’m on top of the water and the anxiety slips away as easy as breathing. Thanks Grandpa.
Now, the fun part begins. I test out the skis in the safety of the wake. I always have to remind myself how to turn one way or the other and once I’m comfortable–not arrogant–I shoot out of the wake, ready to fly.