Finding My Purpose

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

As I walked through the door there she stood, staring into oblivion with a dazed look on her face. Alice was my first Adaptive student, and the only discernible sound that she emitted was “ribbit.” I was intrigued, but not surprised, because the training I had received beforehand had led me to consider the “abnormal” normal. I reviewed her file, but it told me nothing, because it was filled with misinformation (like claiming that this five foot tall woman wore a men’s size eleven snowboard boot). I fit the rest of her gear based on my discretion, and since I had been snowboarding for over thirteen years at that point, I was confident in my decisions.

Then, it was finally time to hit the slopes.

Once we walked out the door, Alice started to tremble while ribbiting in horror, as if the snow was a monster hiding in her closet. Calming her nerves with words was pointless, so I resorted to penguin sliding and playing with the fluffy stuff to prove that the trail meant no harm. Suddenly her eyes widened and a smirk caught her face, at which point I figured that it was now or never. I told her to “feed the alligator to the snake,” which is an expression Adaptive instructors use to describe strapping on a pair of snowboard bindings. Unfortunately, I was not making sense to her, so I went back to the charades and imitated an alligator’s mouth with my arms, chomping down on her snowboard as if it were the ladder strap. The smirk came back and she understood. Alice was strapped in, ready to go.

Once Alice was up, she latched onto me for dear life; for her, I was the only thing protecting her from the white behemoth. Hand in hand we inched downhill, as I watched a look of excitement dissolve any apprehension that lingered in her eyes. Her smirk morphed into a smile, just as her “ribbits” came to express a new sense of confidence and satisfaction. No actual words were ever spoken, but her facial expressions told me that this previously unnerved student of mine felt triumphant both physically and emotionally. She ambitiously shifted her weight, hoping to turn and make the ride more exhilarating. That’s when it fell apart, though. She left her comfort zone and panicked, pushing her edge into the ground, stopping the board but not her body. As she fell forward and began to anticipate a horrid death from the snowy Goliath, I caught her. Relief suddenly overcame her consternation, because I was her rock, and she realized that I would never let anything happen to her. Alice regained her balance, ribbitted in assurance, and continued to shred.

Eventually the sun faded behind the mountain and we made our way back through the door. She hugged me and gratefully said, “Ribbit,” just as I will thank my parents after I graduate high school (in different words, of course). For the first time in my life I was the mentor, the one who fought off fear. I understood the responsibilities that came with fulfilling the role of protecting and comforting Alice. Guiding Alice through a seemingly insurmountable challenge, just as my parents guided me through life, revealed a new sense of fulfillment and gave me a purpose beyond being another snowboarding teenager. Adaptive became my life that year, and from then on it has propelled me to help people experience life’s full potential, despite any obstacle.

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