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When Life Brings You Down, Just Blow Lake From Your Nose And Try, Try Again.

What am I doing? I thought as the water closed over my head.

I’m thirty-years-old, a beer-and-a-half into my Fourth of July, and I let myself get talked into learning to water ski? I haven’t tried this since I was fifteen years old!

My bulky life jacket quickly pulled me to the lake’s lapping surface. Melinda floated several feet away, and I made my way over to where she waited with the skis.

“Now just keep the tips out of the water, and try to pull the boat towards you. That’s how you stand!” She was holding onto the back of my life jacket while I leaned back and concentrated on keeping the ski tips out of the water. They unwittingly kept trying to cross over each other and flip me face-down. I never even would’ve been able to get the damn things attached if Melinda hadn’t been right next to me to help. I focused my eyes on the bobbing butt of the speed boat, silently wishing I was still sunning myself on its cushioned front seats. “You ready?” she asked.

“Sure!” I shouted. Too enthusiastically.

I often find that faking enthusiasm genuinely helps suppress my fear. And while I’ve never been one who’s afraid to embarrass myself, I was justifiably concerned that my novice ski status and gullibility of getting talked into trying new things might result in the summoning of an ambulance and a subsequent trip to the emergency room, thereby ruining everyone else’s holiday enjoyment. That, or totally making it that much more exciting by giving them something to gossip about. Either way, I’d be in the hospital, and I was pretty sure that wasn’t how I wanted this to go down.

“You ready?” Melinda’s husband Eric shouted from the hulk of the boat. Justin waved to me from the front, and their three patient kids stared from the back.

Awesome. An audience.

“Yep!” I tried to smile.

“Letting out the slack!” he yelled.

“Just keep the tips out of the water,” Melinda urged behind me.

“THREE! TWO! ONE!” Eric gunned the engine and I squeezed the rope’s handle in a white-knuckled grip. I felt my body — bulky life vest and all — emerge from the water, but my butt didn’t seem to want to leave the lake. Oh yeah, I have to stand up! I thought. But it was already too late. I hadn’t braced my legs enough and the sudden torque caused me to fall forward into an impressive nose dive.

I didn’t keep the tips above the water.

I bobbed to the surface and blew lake from my nose.

“You were close!” Melinda smiled. She was still only a few feet behind me and helped reattach my skis while the boat circled back around. I laughed at her optimism. “Try again!”

This time, I wiped the negativity from my mind. This is actually kind of fun, I thought. It’d been a long time since I’d challenged myself physically — since I’d tried something entirely new, the success of which depended solely on my own determination. Strangely, I felt my body and mind start to rise to the occasion. Where has this feeling been? I wondered.

“You ready?” Eric shouted.

“Yes!” I yelled back. This time I meant it.

“Letting out the slack!” he yelled.

“Keep the tips up!” Melinda encouraged.

“GO!” shouted Eric. The boat jerked ahead. Tips up tips up tips up. They stayed up. In an undoubtedly impressive display of squat skiing, my butt dragged across the surface for an exhilarating ten feet. My bikini bottom crawled into places it wasn’t supposed to crawl. I started to stand, and then my right leg got away from me. It was like it had a mind of its own. While my left leg stubbornly stayed put, my right leg tried to get back on the boat. And then I was pretty sure I was doing the splits. My legs said, “yes” but my groin said, “no.”

I fell.

I bobbed to the surface and blew lake from my nose.

“That was great!” Melinda shouted as she swam my direction. My right ski was still attached and pulling my leg to the surface, while the other floated a few feet away.

“I’m sorry I mooned you!” I yelled. She laughed.

“You have the balance,” she said. “Next time just stand up sooner!”

Oh you just want me to stand? On water?

I swallowed my sarcasm and unearthed my bikini from where it’d tried to hide itself and let her attach the ski once more.

A flash of determination coursed through my body. Whoa. Where did THAT come from?

“You ready?” Eric shouted.

Thumbs up. “GO!”

I felt the sopping mass of my body and bulking jacket rise above the water. Keeping the tips up, I tried to pull the boat towards me. I think I screamed. Then I stood. Then I screamed again and laughed. I was standing! I was standing on water! Other things I’ve tried — jumping from a plane or rappelling down waterfalls — hadn’t felt quite so liberating. They were thrilling, but at the time I was completely dependent on the pros guiding my lines. But this? This was all me. This was my power. No one else was holding me up.


No one’s holding me up?

The water turned choppy. I laughed. I fell. I bobbed to the surface and blew lake from my nose.

This time, I didn’t hear any encouraging words from Melinda. My coach was still floating in the lake, several hundred yards behind.

Today, there are parts of my body that hurt. My ankle, my knee, and the top of my foot. I’m pretty sure I sported a massive bikini wedgie across the length of my neighborhood lake, and there’s a distinct possibility that I pulled my groin. But I’m relishing the hurt — both physical and ego — because with it comes a new feeling. It’s this new old feeling that hasn’t emerged for a long, long time. This feeling that, hey. I may be thirty and things may not be going my way right now, but I can still present myself with challenges — real challenges — and keep trying until I succeed.

It sounds so simple, you know? This lesson they try to teach us from the first time we stand on wobbly, baby chunk legs. But, as adults, it’s so easy to avoid — to insist on keeping our hair dry and stay sunning on the boat.

We don’t even get in the water anymore.

And that, my friends, is not how I want to live.


When’s the last time you jumped in the lake?


P.S. This is probably how I’ll be spending the rest of my weekend. You know — just until my foot heals.


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Sounds like a great adventure its awesome you had fun on your holiday . I have never tried water skiing myself but i have “jumped in the lake” and had the crashing experience more times than i would like to remember.

“I may be thirty and things may not be going my way right now, but I can still present myself with challenges — real challenges – and keep trying until I succeed.” Katie Gard

good quote :)


The good thing is that I’ve never had a crashing experience that wasn’t worth my time. You always — always — learn from them. :)

Ashlie Woods

First off, water skiing is difficult so big props to you!! And yes, it’s easy to sit in the sun and look pretty but it’s a hell of a lot more fun to get wet (most of the time!). The hike is certainly the last physical challenge I’ve taken on but being heavily persuaded to sing a song from MY country at a dinner party in a Vietnamese village is the last time I feel like I’ve taken a huge plunge. I could’ve somehow weaseled out and made them skip me but WTH, that felt like a totally chicken move so I just sang the first (and only) thing that I could pull to mind – Sweet Child O’ Mine! LOL. Seriously?! Of all the useless lyrics floating around in my head that’s all I could come up with?


I LOVED it! And I forgot how much I love the water. Did you write about singing at the Vietnamese dinner party? That is hilarious! I hope you really got into it with the high pitched voice. :)

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