How Going Downhill Helped Lift Me Up

     We were in the middle of global pandemic where everything was out of sorts, so I guess I should have seen it coming. But I didn't. After 26 years of working on television, the last 9 of my career at a TV station in Pittsburgh, I was told my job was being eliminated. And thanks to COVID-19, I wasn't able to say goodbye to my work friends or the thousands of people who watched me every night. There would be no big send-off. I was at home with my family, hunkered down like everyone else.

     Losing your job -- any job -- is traumatic. We all have bills to pay. But I decided to make the most of it.  My dad taught me the importance of saving for a rainy day. So I had money set aside for life's "what ifs" and my husband was back to work after being shut down for a couple months. He and I both decided it was a great time for me to chill and just hang out with the family. This is the part that really makes me smile.

     For the first time in years, I was able to do what I wanted, when I wanted without rushing around like a maniac. Television news is a 24/7 grind that is thrilling and exciting but it's also not the greatest when it comes to a home life or a normal schedule. So, without a job, I made it my daily routine to play tennis, sit by the pool and spend quality time with my kids and husband. Gotta say...losing my job 2 days after Memorial Day was perfect timing for a summer of fun!

     It was during one of those poolside relaxation sessions that I decided my plan for the winter. I was going to become a ski instructor. Born and raised in upstate New York, I learned to ski at a young age. My husband is a fantastic skier and we have traveled the world skiing together. We taught our own kids how to ski. Skiing makes me happy. So does teaching. Perfect combination! I went online in September and filled out an application -- and waited. 

   At the end of November, I got an email that I had been accepted as a candidate for ski school at Seven Springs Mountain Resort (my home mountain). The try-out would be 4 days of training on skis and then you would have to perform under pressure and teach a lesson in front of a senior ski instructor. Oh, I forgot to mention that I had torn both of my calf muscles playing tennis in the fall. I was sitting at home wondering how I was going to pull this off. My legs were not fully healed. But I asked my doctor and he gave me the go-ahead to ski-- as long as I agreed to take it easy. Wink, wink, sure, no problem. Taking it easy is not my strong suit. But I was determined to do this and NOT get hurt. So on I went...I put on my skis and gave it a shot. 

What a fantastic group of people! There's a reason why I love to ski. Yes, it's the pure joy of going downhill. But it's also the people. Skiers (and snowboarders) are just some of the nicest and most encouraging people you will ever meet. Their whole goal is to have a good time -- all day long -- and in all kinds of weather situations. They are a hardy bunch. And as I tried out for my ski instructor gig, I was teamed up with 2 fantastic instructors and a whole gaggle of wanna-be instructors. The positive energy was pinned at a 10 out of 10 and we had a blast.

On the 4th day of tryouts, I gave my best presentation on the snow, running through a beginner lesson and making sure to hit on all the points I had learned over the course of training. And then I waited. They told us to come back at 3pm and look at the list of names they would post outside the beginner bowl area. If your name was on the list -- you were in. Boom! Right there at the top, I saw my name. I was in. Officially, I was about to become a ski instructor. 

Fast forward to the winter ski season, I was assigned mostly beginners, mostly children, but I had my fair share of adults as well. The youngest student was 4. The oldest student was a 65 year old man. Every Saturday and Sunday, from December through March, I would line up with all the other ski instructors and wait to be picked for "this group" or "that group" or a private lesson. I instantly bonded with the other instructors who made me feel right at home. I was making minimum wage, but I didn't even care about the money. It felt like I had won the lottery. After years of the grind of working in television, where you are often criticized for everything from the words you say to the way you wear your hair and makeup, it was so refreshing to be surrounded by people who just wanted to enjoy life. I love to laugh and smile, and there was no shortage of laughs in ski school. 

And let's not forget the students. They were there to have fun and learn. There is something so rewarding about taking someone who doesn't even know how to get into a ski, and an hour later, they are making turns down the bunny slope. I was often inspired by their spirit to learn something new. There were some tough lessons where things didn't "click" right away -- but I would call all of my lessons successful. We all learned a lot. They learned to ski. I learned that trying new things is, and always will be, worth it. 

You better believe I will be back next year as a ski instructor. I want to smile hard and ski harder. After a pandemic, losing my job, and wondering what I was going to do next -- going downhill really did lift me up.