They Say 19 is the stupid age. The most reckless stage of life where decisions are made impulsively and without thought of the future. Next week is my 19th birthday, and I am excited to embrace the next year of my life.
I might be the sort of person who tries a backflip on my snowboard off a 7-foot jump, or goes 75 around a 55-mph corner just for the heck of it. While I may or may not have gone out snowboarding while still in a sling, I feel like I have learned a thing or two in my almost two decades of existence.
1. Education is important, but learning is importanter
Academics aren’t everything – but definitely are something. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum moving from from Cupertino to Tahoe. Asking someone their GPA in Cupertino was comparable to asking a woman her weight. I worked in a child care for almost a year, and I realized that Kids were being prepared for the SAT from Kindergarten. My boss told me that his boss was the parents, and the stricter and meaner I was, the more they would like me. If a kid went home and complained, “Miss Hanalei Forced me to do math homework and put me on time out when I didn’t!”, that is what kept them coming back. Meanwhile in Tahoe, I’ve met people who skip class because they don’t feel like going, or are too hungover from partying hard on a Monday night. This post is not about why we should all forget about school and go do whatever you want (I would definitely become a ski bum)
What I have realized is that grades do not measure anything, and what motivates me to do well in school is the fact that I am giving my all into everything I do. What matters more than learning set facts is learning how to think for yourself and work with people. While the school system still needs work, I believe you can still go to a public school and get out what you put into it by approaching subjects with genuine interest.
2. Who cares?
Working through the same child care, I did get to do some non-academic stuff in the summer. I remember one day we went to the park to supervise the children on the playground. I had the strong urge to join them, watching them swing, roll down a hill, do cartwheels and ride the spinny-thing. and then I realized – why not join them? Who cares? So I did. and it was awesome. In middle school I cared so much about what people thought of me, but then I realized I was my own worst critic. What could have been a boring day sitting around in mid-June heat watching kids have fun turned into an awesomely fun experience.
3.Life is like a hitting a ramp.
One of the best and worst feelings is standing at the top of the terrain park, strapped into your snowboard (or skis), knowing you’re about to send it. If I want to hit a jump, I have to decide from the top, not at the takeoff. I need to go fast enough, and not hesitate. Approaching a jump timidly or too slowly can cause you to miss the landing and hurt yourself. Snowboarding is not the only place I have realized being decisive and committing are important. Whether I’m stepping up to the stage at Open mic night, or deciding to commit to a binding decision, there are things in life you just can’t “sorta try to do”. At some point you just have to say, “dropping!”, point your snowboard at the jump, and send it (figuratively and literally).
4. Sometimes a little luck is all you need
After 4 car break-downs and two injuries in the space of 3 months, I figured it was time for some good luck. It was regionals weekend and I was at Mammoth with the SNC team. Snowboard cross is an awesome, aggressive, exhilarating event, but to be honest, I sucked at it. I’m just too nice! Strapping in at the start gate, my goal was to not lose the first round by too much. The top two from each round go to the next round, and so forth until the finals. In that first round, everyone fell and I stayed ahead long enough to end up in first place! It came by total surprise! Three rounds later of the same luck and I was in the finals! That day, I learned that sometimes all it takes is a little luck, and when the good luck comes, embrace it!
5. Put downs and criticism are my motivation
I wasn’t going to hit the jump at Northstar, but all it took was some guy saying “all girls just need to grow a pair” to get me to do it. The fact that I was not recruited for the snowboard team and was denied an athletic scholarship motivates me to show up to every practice and try my hardest at every one. I was once told that watching me snowboard was like watching grass grow. If someone tells me I can’t do it, that drives me to prove them wrong. I remember the most determined I ever was to prove someone wrong was when my doctor told me I was out for the season in December after a dislocated shoulder. I was back on snow in two weeks and my arm feels fine. Want to get me to send it? Tell me I’m cautious. Tell me I won’t amount to anything. I dare you. I could crumple or give up with criticism, but I’ve made the choice not to. People create meaning out of things, and to me, I take criticism as an opportunity to prove someone wrong.
6. Boring things are as boring as you want them to be
In middle school, I hated school. My favorite thing to say at one point was “I’m bored”. My 13-year-old self never would have guessed that I would eventually get myself to tolerate long distance running and Chemistry. In 10th grade, I learned to “fake it till you make it”. My life consisted of 18 hours a week of cross country, and lots of homework from my Honors chemistry class. After a few weeks of hating it, I realized, “Hey, maybe I don’t have to hate it!”. With every step, I told myself i loved running. With every assignment, I told myself I loved chemistry. And it worked! I didn’t love them, but I definitely tolerated them, and I was surprised at the impact of my fake, forced thoughts.
7. It is impossible to do things without other people
Even before Coming to SNC, I had the vision of starting a christian fellowship club. My greatest fear was that no one would want to join me. I could plan the best events, and choose the best bible verses to study, but if no one came, it would be a huge flop. Seriously, other people rock. Without other people, this club would be nothing. We now host meetings twice a week and are being sponsored by a local church because of our success. All I’ve done is get the people together. I thought starting a christian club at a small, liberal arts college would be difficult, but the amount of support I’ve had has made it possible.
8. Better to aim high and miss than to aim low and make it
Every snowboarding season I set a ton of goals. Last season some of them were pretty out-there. By the end of the season, I was extremely disappointed with my slopestyle line at nationals. I did three straight airs. My disappointment was tangible. Then I realized, so what? I was disappointed but whoopdedoo, big deal. I didn’t die. Just achieve those goals next season!
9. Forget being a hard worker.
Work smart, not hard. When I first started hitting jumps on my snowboard two years ago, I could not land them. I thought the only way was to keep trying the same thing over and over. So I did. I literally busted my ass (most likely fractured my tailbone that season). Last snowboarding season I wanted to take a different approach. I worked on my form and focused on how I hit the jumps.
Bill Gates once said he likes to choose lazy people to do a job, because they will find an easy way to do it. I take this mindset into studying for tests, and other areas of my life. Sure I could study for both the SAT and ACT and take the best score after taking each one multiple times, but why not pick one, study it well, and plan to ace it on the first try?
10. Healthy food doesn't suck.
They say “if it tastes good, spit it out”. I say “If it tastes bad spit it out”. Whoever came up with that saying probably tried to eat raw kale and decided to stay away from all healthy food. I remember when I used to think healthy food was uncool. But you know what’s even uncooler? Feeling tired and sluggish and getting sick every other month.
When people think of healthy food they might think of weird things that weird people eat like Kale, Chia seeds, or Quinoa. You know the food that only “that kind” of person eats. What I’ve learned is that healthy food is rad, and doesn’t have to be a speciality “health food”. It just has to be real food! I never shop at whole foods, and I’m not a big fan of kale or salad. I hate chia seed pudding and I’ve never bought Kombuncha. Healthy food can be totally awesome (and inexpensive) if know what you’re doing!
11. Yes friends on a powder day!
Life is way more fun when you share great experiences with other people. What I’ve realized is that life is not all about me. If I had all the money in the world and could snowboard powder all the time, but could not share it with anyone, I’d be miserable. I’m not only taking about powder days, but life in general.
I could just devote all my time and energy into improving my own snowboarding and winning competitions, but what is the point if I never help other people? To even consider snowboarding as a sport, I am extremely privileged. Not everyone can pursue their passion, and it would be my honor to help other people.
12. You don't have to feel a certain way because it's the norm.
It is the day before my first college finals and I’m out at Northstar hitting the terrain park. what on earth am I doing out there? In 9th grade, I saw how stressed people got during finals week and I vowed not to stress out. It’s hard to describe how to not stress out, you just kind of tell yourself that it is your intention. I planned to go snowboarding the weekend before finals every year and have kept to that tradition. The result? My final grades were often surprisingly higher than my average grade for the semester. I took the same mindset into Junior year (dubbed year of hell and eternal sobbing in Cupertino), and found myself not stressing while everyone else around me was.
13. If you're not fearless, pretend you are.
Let’s face it. Some people are just born fearless. From a young age they are going big in extreme sports. When I was a kid I was one of the most cautious people you’d meet. I loved to stay in my comfort zone. I chickened out on Disneyland’s splash mountain. So now that I aspire to be in the X-games, all the fear just suddenly melted away, right? Yeah I wish so too. I’ve learned that how you are as a kid does not define your future. I think my cautious nature drew me to snowboarding because it is a tangible way to step out of that comfort zone. Courage is just the by-product of caring enough about something. Fear exists, but I refuse to let it rule my life. I want to go skydiving because I know I don’t want to.
14. There is no set path
I try really hard not to, but I get extremely jealous when I see the little 9 year old girl out there on the snow, ripping it up. In the world of high level sports, 19 is old. I started snowboarding at the age of 14, living 4 hours away from the closest snow. I didn’t go to some fancy mountain academy or compete in the junior Olympics. I knew that I would be competing against people who did take that path. Some people were homeschooled and lived in Tahoe all their lives. How could I possibly make it? There was no way. That was until I heard about Jenny Jones.
Jenny started snowboarding at 17 and lived in England, where there are no mountains. However, at the age of 33, she won a bronze medal in the 2014 Olympics for slopestyle snowboarding. I was inspired, and realized that I too could make it to the Olympics for the sport I love.
There’s nothing wrong with starting really young, going to a private mountain school and riding every day, and going to summer snow camps every year. That is one path. But it is not the only path, and I should not be discouraged. If I focus on where I’m going, and see these people as friends rather than enemies, then I’ll eventually end up where I need to be.
15. Question Everything?
In community college, I got to take an awesome class called Creative minds. Basically, it was about questioning the status quo and rebelling against the system. Coolest. Class. Ever. We learned about vested interests that big corporations had in industries. We learned to think twice about “common sense” things and issues such as gender roles. I thought differently about how the school system worked and how the pharmaceutical industry keeps us unhealthy. Now I always think: why is something the way it is? What is really happening here? I remember when I was in urgent care after a snowboarding crash, I had the wits about me to question every step the doctor performed.
16. We were all once gapers.
If you know what GAPER day is, then you’re awesome! For those of you who don’t know, a gaper is basically a skier or snowboarder who has no clue what they are doing, usually characterized by a gap between their helmet and goggles. It is easy to poke fun at gapers, or even get mad at them when they’re in your way, but I always have to remember – I was once a gaper not too long ago. I think I enjoy gaper day (where everyone dresses up as a gaper) so much because I’m remembering my roots and where I started, and poking fun at myself and what used to be normal for me. I am reminded not to take myself too seriously. Gapers inspire me. They don’t give a damn about what others think and they don’t take themselves too seriously. Any beginner skier or snowboarder will make a fool of themselves on their first day. The fact that they’re out there and trying their best is inspiring. You go gapers!
17. Treat people like it's their last day.
Woah… Getting real deep here. I included this because of my dog, Kona, who died in 2014. One day it was my 17th birthday and everything was going great, then the next day she was so lethargic we took her to the vet where she was diagnosed with cancer. We decided not to have the operation because of the slim chance of success. The vet gave her a few hours. She lived an extra two weeks after that day. I remember every day for those two weeks I would spend as much time with her as I could. I spoiled her and let her on the bed. Eventually she went peacefully in her sleep. If I could treat her like that when I knew any moment could be her last, why can’t I treat people like that every day?
18. Nothing is guaranteed
I had it all planned out – Winter break was five weeks and I had landed a place 2 miles from my favorite ski resort to spend it. There were 35 days I could have injured myself. However, fate chose day one and my epic plans were thwarted. It was so tempting to become bitter and complain about it (not saying I didn’t do that at all), but I soon realized that doing so would achieve absolutely nothing. My winter break of 2015 made me realize that I could plan everything out as carefully as I wanted to – but in the end, it is not me who decides what happens. Realizing that helped me not to lose my mind while I looked out at the bluebird skies and fresh powder that I could not ride. I realized that there is no good or bad, there just is.
19. Never stop failing.
People who don’t ski or snowboard regularly usually end up asking me this question: “do you still fall?” My answer is Yes, yes I do and I plan to continue falling for the rest of my snowboarding career. In snowboarding, falling means you’re trying new things and pushing your limits. Snowboarding is not the only place where this matters. Imagine living a life where you never tried anything new in fear of failing? What a boring life! To me, failure is not trying. This is just one of the lessons snowboarding has taught me. Do the thing! Go get it! and never. Stop. Failing.