ruminations and reflections

“Bouger” the operator repeated, as we were getting shoved closer and closer to our competitors, teammates, coaches and officials. It was 4 pm and we were loading onto the tram after a long day of racing. I swatted the scratchy tickle of an Italian girls hair out of my face as more people crammed in. I was tired, hungry, and slightly cranky at the seemingly unnecessary obstruction on my personal space (something Americans definitely take for granted). The doors slid closed as people settled into our congested tram like packed sardines. All of a sudden, from the far side of the tram came the soft chords of a harmonica being played. As the harmonics drifted through the tram the tangible tension and angst of the people surrounding me lessoned. Instantly, I was in a better mood. As I craned my head to see where the music was coming from, I took a moment to take a conscious look at my surroundings. The snow and clouds of the previous day had cleared and my eyes welcomed the magnificence that is the Swiss Alps. Standing there in the overcrowded tram I began to realize just how lucky I am, and instantly felt ashamed of my annoyance moments earlier. Ironic how something as pure and simple as a few notes on a harmonica could bring such monumental things into perspective. Yes, it had been a challenging day full of ups and downs in Zinal, Switzerland where my team and I arrived two days prior to race in my first tech (slalom and gs) Europa Cups. The snow was rough starting in the 80s and I had fought my way through three long bumpy runs (side note there were three runs because the previous days race had been cut short due to weather). Despite moving up considerably and having an apparently good day, I was frustrated with the ever-present desire to do better and ski faster. I knew (scratch that I know) that there is always always places in a race where one can “do better, ski faster”, but I had let the fatigue of mind and body conquer my rationale and had evidentially become frustrated, angry, and irritable. The fortunate reality check brought by the harmonica gave me the jolt I needed to take a second and appreciate where I was and what I was doing.   I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world, doing what I love with super interesting and awesome people from around the world. Racing can be tough. That's not in question, but what I’ve learned that has made me love the good days way more than I hate the bad days is to appreciate the little things. To start with, I’ve begun to realize that I haven’t been truly content or happy with my skiing or results in a long time. This is a good thing in the sense that I’m always left wanting more, working to get faster, and looking for every possible chance to improve. Not bad things at all. However, the elusive perfect run is about as attainable as Icarus’s desperate attempts to fly to heaven. With this logic in mind, I’ve started to appreciate small steps forward as successes. It’s also helped me a lot to find a positive in every race no matter if I finish last, first, somewhere in the middle, or not at all. While at seemingly unlikely times (like when I’m in the breathtaking alps) I forget to appreciate the small things and the big things; overall, I have started to truly appreciate the experiences I’m enjoying. The year has been going far better than the two previous in terms of my skiing endeavors. Every day I remind myself how incredible it is that I get to be doing what I am, and how fortunate I am to know so many amazing people that are supporting me and cheering me on!

 I’m looking forward to a lot of races coming up soon and am excited to head to Gaal Austria tomorrow.

Andrew ManganComment