Lessons in Falling | Teen Ink

Lessons in Falling

February 13, 2021
By ilanadrake PLATINUM, New York, New York
ilanadrake PLATINUM, New York, New York
23 articles 1 photo 0 comments

“There is indeed a “right way” to fall — and it can save you a lot of grief if you know how to do it“ (Kate Murphy, The New York Times, 1/24/17)  
     When I was seven, I enviously watched my younger brother learn how to ski. While, in theory, I could have joined his camp, in reality, my left leg was weak and my sensory issues prevented me from wearing pants. Instead, I hobbled about in my long skirt with bare legs tingling in the freezing air. 
     After completing seven years of occupational and physical therapy, I cautiously said “yes” to ski camp. I proudly, although clumsily, walked to the instructor wearing my itchy ski pants, wool socks, and heavy boots. Yet, within minutes, the instructor asked me to leave. I was terrified to ascend the magic carpet, and the instructor could not continue the lesson.
     When I was ten, a ski class called “Get I” claimed that “anyone” could ski. While I tried “Get I” (twice), I was too scared to glide down the Cricket (beginner) slope and use the novice ski lift alone. My visual spatial skills were weak and not being on firm ground terrified me. I was afraid to fall. After noticing a visually impaired skier accompanied by two instructors gliding past me holding a bamboo pole, I asked one of the instructors if she could teach me to ski. After learning about my developmental history, she ushered me to STRIDE, an adaptive ski program.   
     During my first two lessons, I clenched my bamboo pole with both joy and terror. Then, for my third lesson, the program head informed me that he would be my instructor, and he would ski backwards while I held his hands. Although I longed for my pole, I knew that I needed to let go. My instructor was so engaging that, when I finally became oriented to my surroundings, I realized that I had reached the top of the mountain. Yet, while my instructor skied backwards, he did not always hold my hands. Instead, he talked me down the mountain and, as time progressed, I learned how to control my body and navigate my course. My instructor also allowed me to fall. By the end of the lesson, I was an icy mess, but a fire was kindled inside of me. 
    The key is to not fight the fall, but just to roll with it, as paratroopers do.
     While I am not a paratrooper (yet), I am mastering the art of falling. My falls now resemble a “pivot”- something only the trained eye can detect. I am a black diamond skier and often receive compliments on my balance. Yet, I continue to fall (and pivot) in other areas. For example, my high school’s greatest strength (engineering) is my greatest weakness. While I considered transferring to a humanities-focused school, I refused to quit, instead pivoting to find novel ways to master spatially demanding courses.
     When I did fall into my hole of disability (AP Computer Science), I was unable to pivot and, instead, rolled and enrolled in a coding school for students with learning differences. Fittingly, my instructor codes for Disney. Like Alice, I am taking risks and learning lessons that guide me through my own trail, and I am thankful for my trips to Wonderland. Over the past year, I have transformed into a human bamboo pole by casting light upon, and cleaning a path for, peers experiencing the painful and disorienting feeling of their own falls. And, during this metamorphosis, my peers anointed with my nickname: firecracker. 

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