I know it’s easy to say that the past COVID-centric and obsessed year has thrown most people off their game and has changed many people’s life trajectories in big and little ways, but I now know from experience that this is true. I’ve spent the majority of my should-be-crazy-busy junior year in my bedroom or family room, either doing homework or entertaining a very small group of close friends. My family, school advisors, peers, and our society’s general culture had influenced my belief that my junior year was supposed to be a year of busy-ness, filled with college resume-building activities and classes and a hyperfocus on small details that would help guide me to my life’s next chapter. An almost exact year of living in the Covid pandemic has led me to an invaluable life lesson: the simple things in life are the most important. I knew my family’s recent ski trip to Boise was going to be a break from this unpredictable, disruptive, anxiety-provoking year.
Our family planned the Boise getaway with the goal of disconnecting from the building mental stress COVID had fostered, and over the quick getaway I realized that simple is better and elaborately laid plans aren’t required to create a memorable experience. Katherine, Matt, and Sophia, my three older siblings, had been mostly away at college over the pandemic, so I hadn’t been in tune with their daily lives. My younger sister, Bizzie, is a sophomore at Rio, so she and I had been tucked in our rooms, trying to navigate our way through online classes. Bizzie and I had also been focused on trying to volunteer for local charities with whom we’re connected. Both of my parents have jobs that necessitate an in-person presence, so they’d been busy getting through their hectic workday schedules. In general, I found myself often too focused on my computer, trying to navigate assignments and due dates. I knew I was losing focus on the outside world and the simple pleasures I know were at my doorstep.
Our family needed a getaway where we could reconnect as a family and focus on togetherness rather than tasks and responsibilities. We were soon Boise-bound, where my two older sisters attend college. Fortunately, my San Diego-based brother was able to join us. Our family’s focus for the two-day trip was to temporarily tune out the outside world and tune into each other. With that in mind, my parents planned a day trip to Bogus Basin, the nearest ski resort to Boise.
I had been determined to develop my snowboarding skills during the pandemic, and our day trip to Bogus was a great opportunity to do so. We rented necessary equipment, packed our lunch, and headed to the mountain. Fortunately, we had planned our outing on a crisp, cloudless midweek day. The resort was quiet with very few visitors. The stillness, combined with the views and smells of the snow-dusted fir trees, helped calm my anxious mind. On our very first ski lift ride, I could only hear the gentle whirring of the lift mechanics, and I instantly felt my brain and body relaxing. I was with my family in a serene, almost-eerily quiet atmosphere, and I was enthusiastically engaged in one of my favorite hobbies. On my first snowboard run, I felt the wind on my cheeks and heard the snow crunching below my boar, and I was immediately able to forget and let go of looming class assignments, my anxieties about my math class, and the disappointment I’d felt about missing out on my junior year social activities. My first snowboarding run may have been a little rough, and I did fall a few times, but I was having a truly amazing time. We were all laughing and bickering and busy being our normal family, but the important thing is we were doing it all together. My individual and our joint happiness seemed to grow with every snowboard run. On each lift ride, I was able to closely engage with my brother and sisters, joke about our repeated falls and good-naturedly jab each other about varying skill levels, and just chat and catch up on family life. I realized on the mountain that day that the stressors of my junior year in particular and life in general were just part of my story. My true story and what matters most is knowing that family time trumps everything else. To me, success is enjoying a quickly planned trip to Boise and spending quality time with family. This trek to Bogus Basin and the day we spent there reminded me that I’d achieved my definition of success and that I can continue to do so if I focus on the simple things in life. A simple family trip to a tiny ski resort in Boise is more important, to me, than the junior year “check list” of AP classes, the SAT, and society’s pressure on me to overachieve in order to obtain someone else’s definition of success. To me, success is reconnecting with family and snowboarding down a mountain in the middle of nowhere. All I need to do is look to my left or right on a Boise ski lift to see my siblings and know that I’ll be okay.