This year, I wanted to go back and do the training runs so I tried to talk it up to Mike and The Yogger but it just didn't happen. So, instead, I opted for a different kind of mountain trip this year, a more traditional route of snow seeking than the ultrarunner version. My little brother, Cody, had never seen snow. His mom, well technically his grandma, asked me if I'd take him because she thought that would be a great experience for him. After I mentioned it to neighbor Brad, he got on board and booked a cabin at Big Bear for a couple of nights for his family. The BBBS.org rules prohibit overnights, so I made plans to pick up Cody at 4am on Sunday, drive up to meet up with the Colberts, and spend the day playing in the snow. I thought with 4 adults and 3 kids (they have a live-in family-member-nanny, Megan) we would be able to keep the 3 littles happy and still have time for a little fun ourselves.
|Cody and his "mom" who is actually his biological grandma, Patty|
|Matt and Nate eating breakfast at 6:40am|
|Matt calls me "Meester Daaave"|
|Nate before dumping his bowl of milk in his lap|
|Cody and Matt throwing snowballs|
Somehow, after the plan changed about 40 times, Brand ended up jumping in our car and off we went, first to rent a board, boots, and helmet for Cody ($25 for the day, it might as well have been free, shoot, I'd have paid $25 just to talk to that way-cute-but-way-too-young female who sorted it all out for us in the store.) Then we were off to park, pee, hop on the shuttle, and finally arrive at the slopes. I spent too much time getting my boots on (it's hard to drive in snowboard boots, so I had to put them on with cold hands in the parking lot) and I forgot sunscreen (huge oops) and food (I had a box of purefit bars I intended to bring with for food for Cody and I, and I forgot to stuff my pockets with them, hence the $35 lunch bill.) Somehow, by sheer luck, I wound up dressed properly for the day, at times I was too hot, at times too cold, and most of the day just about right based on our activity level and the changing weather conditions.
|Conveyer belts take a lot of the pressure off first timers|
|Neighbor Brad in yellow|
|By lunch, Cody was able to hold an edge|
|The smile is the reason we made the trip|
|Day 1 of boarding means a lot of time spent like this|
|Lunch at the top|
|Brad rented short skis for some reason|
|This was the punctuation between am and pm sessions|
|Cody decided to bury himself in snow|
|Sort of like being at the beach only colder (for me)|
|He said he wasn't cold at all|
Now, on to the honesty part. I'm pretty sure this is going to come out all wrong because I have a special talent for saying things that get interpreted as insults when I mean them as observations. However, I feel compelled to draw some comparisons between my little brother and the child I remember myself as being when I was his age. I'm not talking about any physical comparisons, if I remember myself as being slightly more physically fit at that age from running, water polo, and tennis, that's not exactly a difference worth mentioning. I lived in a different state, with different weather, and I had access to facilities and coaches that Cody does not have. It's a simple matter of doing different things, not all of which I actively decided to do at all times, that leads to whatever physical differences I might be able to discern. An over-emphasis on athletic performance at an early age probably does more harm than good as far as adult amateur athletic performance is concerned.
What I am most interested in, however, is the mind of a 10 year old. I notice some similarities in the things that tend to fascinate Cody and things that I remember fascinating me at that age. I loved running and jumping and trying to catch a football in mid air. I loved exploring the "woods" (which really means anything off to the side of the main track but within easy visual range of the masses). I remember noticing a lot of the little things that I look past as an adult, having been trained to conform to all of the rules that each microcosm of the world has set up. I used to see the journey of youth as a process of learning and understanding all of the rules of engagement I needed to know in order to meet and hopefully exceed expectations in the various measurements which would be taken along my path. I now see how much can be lost in that process, how pure the heart and mind start off at birth, and how as we add structure we are effectively voluntarily placing blinders on which limit our natural tendency to see wide as well as far.
Regardless, society isn't going to do some massive rewind, and this blog is hardly the place for a thesis on the loss of innocence which seems to be increasing in the modern world. Instead, I want to focus in on something that's been so heavy in my thoughts over the past few months. I see a tremendous disparity between "finishers" and "participants" in the modern world. When I saw Cody "quit" on the slopes yesterday, I knew it was perfectly reasonable, he was tired, actually quite exhausted, and he reached a saturation point and just kind of fell over. He was maybe a little proud or a little insecure so he wasn't able to tell me directly, "hey big brother Dave, I know this trip costs you some $ and an entire day of your time and I really appreciate you doing that for me, but I'm really tired now and I think it'd be best if I could maybe go somewhere to take a nap because I don't think I can board any more." I can read between the lines on that one, I don't expect such a level of self awareness at such a tender age.
What fascinates me, is how normal that reaction is in this world, and yet how foreign it seems to me. I wonder, I truly wonder, how much of my perspective is genetic vs developmental. Was I born this way or was I made this way? If I had a child, would they be like me in terms of how they react at the breaking point, or would they be more "normal"? I remember my grandfather's never-ever-quit attitude, mostly the annoying parts of it. I know my father is successful because he doesn't give up on anything that is important, even though he's scaled back his physical ambitious to more reasonable levels as he ages. But I think I may carry even more of a burden than my father or grandfather, or my mother on her own, because I got some sort of crazy combination of perfectionist and obsessiveness tendencies which leave me in a perpetual state of being overly unimpressed with myself and motivated to try harder. Was I ever 10 and able to lie down on the slopes and bury myself in snow and chillax even while the clock was ticking and chairs still open for another run? I don't remember it. I remember competing in tennis tournaments around the state at that age. I remember wanting to squeeze every last micogram of toothpaste out of the tube. I remember wanting to ride my bike around the entire island and being disappointed that I wasn't allowed to. I remember wanting to swim out to the islands in Kailua Bay, wanting to bring a full sized shovel to dig to China, and wanting to build my own anything and everything in the garage workshop.
I remember being mildly content with each forgettable W on the tennis court and completely crushed with every L. I remember chasing the swifter runners around the track and the smoother swimmers in the pool, always expecting myself to be able to compete even if/when I couldn't, always looking in front and never once glancing back. I don't remember many moments of just experiencing life through relaxation. I remember a plethora of attempts to improve for the future. I remember hitting tennis balls with my dad, and the ever-present opportunity to get ice cream afterward if I could keep a rally going for 50 shots, then 75, then 100. That was one of the ways my father knew he could get me, I would rather die of exhaustion on the court than give up on returning a measly 25 shots in a row, and with each miss I'd double-down my efforts and be even more committed to hitting the mark. I didn't like ice cream nearly as much as I despised failure.
Cody doesn't have this burden. I don't want to put it on him. But yet I do want to encourage him somehow, in subtle ways, just like Brad did, and like Shane does for me. Because without encouragement, most of us don't self motivate at the right level. That is why I blog, the one or two comments allow me to see my words and thoughts through an alternate perspective and this adds up to enabling the growth of my perspective as a writer. It is why I long to be in a relationship, where my partner can offer me pure and honest feedback about how my actions and words affected them. I don't want to infect Cody with any of my mental disorders I have, but I'd like to see him stretching towards his potential once in a while. Because I do honestly feel that there is far more mediocrity in this world than excellence and I am supremely enamored with excellence. I'd like Cody to choose that himself and I don't want to trick him into that choice either.
So, there you go. I took a kid to the snow for the first time and wrote a 10 page essay on how I'm managing my disappointment that he didn't bust out a double McTwist in the terrain park even though he handled his first day far better than I did and I had the benefit of many ski days and twice as many years of age leading up to my first day on a board. I'm so not fun to end this with my screwed up thoughts instead of a "life is roses and youth is all pure joy" sentiment. I suppose deep-down I am worried that I do not measure up as a potential father, that I will never learn how to inspire without micro-managing, that I can lead only by example and not by instruction. And mostly I worry that my leadership is lacking in the most essential ingredient of all, balance. Perhaps that is all just my insecurity speaking today.