It’s been a busy spring. For you, for me, for all of us. It’s been a time of feeling unsure of how to move forward, second guessing plans that were made, and realizing that we can’t take things for granted.
But we are moving forward, slowly but surely!
It took me a while to put my thoughts down, because I have felt – like many of you, I imagine – that I’ve been running a step behind, trying to figure out how to make this new system of working from home while staying involved with as many people and organizations as possible a sustainable pursuit. But here we are, me sitting on a towel at the edge of the Stratton snowmaking pond with my computer after some ridiculously humid and tough intervals, taking a pause to reflect on the spring and how life is going right now. In many ways, it’s the same; we train hard, we recover, we enjoy time with our close-knit circle of family and teammates who are in our little “germ bubble”. In some ways, it’s different. We have the term “germ-bubble”, for starters.
Let’s quickly recap the spring; in case you didn’t notice, a pandemic happened! Just kidding, I know you noticed.
I was home with my family in Minnesota getting ready for the Canada-US end of the World Cup season and enjoying the ridiculously cute snuggles from our family’s dogs, Leo and Lucy (don’t worry, photos attached) when it felt like the world just…went nuts.
Like many ski racing fans around the US, I was so, incredibly over-the-top excited for the Minneapolis World Cup and Fastenal Parallel 45 Festival. And of course, the only safe and smart course of action was to cancel the festival and end of the World Cup season. Yet going to ski the perfectly groomed course the day we were supposed to be racing in our own country, in front of so many excited families and little kids, brought some tears behind the glasses. Sliding a World Cup race bib (which had, of course, already been printed out) over my head and seeing one of my longtime sponsors, Fastenal, right on the front, brought happy tears. I kept the bib, by the way. Good luck wresting that one back from me! Hearing from one kind, passionate volunteer after another that they’d been to the Trailhead every day for the past year helping out with the Festival brought happy tears, and also a deep appreciation for the commitment and enthusiasm of our local ski community.
On a personal level, this was an event that was also serving as a family and friend reunion of sorts, and I was so excited to see relatives that I hadn’t seen in years. One of my Grandmas hadn’t ever seen me race live, and this was going to be the first time she got to cheer for me from the side of the trail. So, naturally, I struggled to balance this sadness and sense of loss after years of hard work from so many with the relief and cognitive knowledge of how lucky we are to be safe and healthy, and how it could always be worse. I felt guilt for feeling sad, but also needed to process the emotions. So much hard work by so many incredible volunteers not being able to see the light of day is a tough pill to swallow.
In a similar way, after years spent working on my book Brave Enough, it was a little heartbreaking to cancel the Book Launch party and move it to a virtual event. At the end of the day it was still awesome to have a launch at all! Yet I had been looking forward to the Q&A with my awesome co-author, Todd, and to get a chance to sign books together and celebrate so much hard work coming to a close. Yet even with an unconventional book release, the outreach from so many of you has been such a positive, uplifting part of this spring! I’ve been humbled by the messages following the book launch, and hearing from everyone who enjoyed the book, and had follow up questions after reading it made me want to interact a little bit more. I’m working on a fun project that I’m excited to share with you soon, but I wanted to let you know that Brave Enough is launching something exciting later on this summer!
It was also so uplifting to hear from many of you about how you were inspired to seek help to improve your mental health and well-being. I can guarantee that, even if you feel alone or isolated in your struggle, you are not the only one. I know this because I also had my own struggles, but also because I’ve had hundreds of you reach out to let me know that you’re starting treatment, having hard conversations with family, friends or teammates, or working to educate yourself as a coach of young athletes. It’s been an honor to hear these stories of hope and hard work, and I hope that they keep happening, on any level that you feel comfortable with!
I suppose what I learned at the end of the COVID-19 day is that our emotions are our emotions, and we’re allowed to feel many things at once. It’s ok to feel totally bummed out about the pandemic, the cancellation of so many events, to feel sad for all the graduates denied their special moment at graduation ceremonies. But it’s also ok to feel hope and happiness in every day moments, and to actively seek out ways to feel joy.
Which is why, when my boyfriend Wade proposed to me while on a hike this past April, my heart exploded with joy! All of a sudden, it was not only ok but absolutely RIGHT to celebrate love, hope, and the excitement of things to come. He has made me the happiest person. While there have been many silver linings to this spring, the biggest has absolutely been the working-from-home situation, which has allowed us the most time together we’ve ever had. It’s been keeping me happy and balanced, and I’m incredibly grateful for every extra day I get with him. When your relationship is often separated by an ocean, it reminds you not to take any moment for granted.
I got to spend more time than ever in Boston, and Wade and I really threw ourselves into the DIY world of home improvements. Although I’m sure my overenthusiastic help was sometimes slowing us down instead of speeding us up, I really enjoyed learning how to make a headboard and sliding barn doors, and repainting the windows!
We moved back to our little condo in Stratton, Vermont, quarantined, and once Alayna moved back into her room we made a little “ski family” unit. Movie nights with popcorn, creative baking experiments (I’ve been in a bit of a Drake-on-cake phase) and a lot of time spent out in the garden has made the hours of training feel balanced with more normal life things.
To end on a more somber note, given current events, I’d like to take a beat and address the systemic racism in our country. For what it’s worth, I’m adding my voice to the protestors and standing with them (in spirit, since I’m actually physically out in Stratton, Vermont). Frankly, everyone I know and interact with agrees that what has happened to George Floyd and People of Color since the beginning of our country is appalling, horrific, and needs to be ended immediately. We’ve talked about this on our team every day, but we’ve also had these sort of talks in years past, not just in the past few weeks.
I think we can all agree that the first step to being anti-racist is to listen, to learn, to look for ways in which you can be the best ally possible. For some really beautifully written thoughts on this, I’d recommend the article by Courtney Ariel, “For Our White Friends Desiring To Be Allies”. https://sojo.net/articles/our-white-friends-desiring-be-allies
But what comes next? Change desperately needs to happen, but I admit that I have no clue what I’m doing, and desperately want to be part of the solution. I sometimes feel like I spend an awful lot of time second guessing what I should do or say, for the very real fear of saying the wrong thing and accidentally harming this important movement towards equality. I just want to do the right thing…then I realize I’m speaking in “I” statements, and feel badly all over again.
Perhaps the best thing I can do is to keep helping the causes that I’m already involved in and do my best to move them forward while being a good ally, with projects like:
- Protecting our planet (climate change disproportionately affects POC, women and lower income communities)
- Getting girls in sport and empowered through learning teamwork, goal setting and grit (ALL girls need this, no matter where they live or what color their skin is)
- Continuing awareness and education around eating disorders (which affect people no matter their age, gender or race and are dangerous stereotyped as “young white girl issue” which really hurts people of color who may be suffering from an eating disorder and are scared to reach out for help)
- and helping sport become more diverse (obviously)
Just because not every post on social media will always address the protests going on right now doesn’t mean I’m not with them. In a similar fashion, I’m very supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, even though not every post directly ties into the movement. It’s more important to be supportive and do the work than agonize over how it looks on the internet (yet obviously, this is easier said than done, especially when you’re simultaneously being criticized for being an athlete and not staying in your narrow lane, and also for not posting enough).
I’ve always been proud of the various nonprofits that I work with as an ambassador or serve on a board for. I’ll keep working with them to do the best we can to make the world a better and more equal place, for ALL of the people in this world, regardless of their race, gender orientation, or where they live. If you want to check them out, they’re each linked in the “partnerships” section of my website.
And I’m incredibly, painfully aware of the privilege I was born with. But instead of just sitting there feeling guilty over it, I figure it’s right to use the platform I now have to give back, and try to move the needle in a positive direction. This spring it was awesome to partner with Kindness Wins to help raise over 4K for the Sheridan Story in Minnesota, donating meals to kids, which became even more important as schools shut down with COVID-19. If you missed the fundraiser, it’s ok – you can always donate any time, at any amount you feel comfortable with.
We’ve now raised over 2K for WithAll Foundation through the Cameo shoutouts I do when people book me on the Cameo app. This is an ongoing fundraiser, with a direct link to book me in the “about” section of my website if you’d like me to make a birthday, graduation, or just have-a-super-duper-great-day shoutout for someone in your life. It’s been so cool to do these fun little shoutouts for people while also raising money for a cause that’s so close to my heart. There are so many ways we can help others, and at the end of the day, every little bit helps!
In the meantime, I’ll be here, training hard, resting hard, baking ridiculous cakes and spending way too much time fussing over the garden plants. Wish us luck as we head into our next big training block!