Remember that kid in elementary school who was always picked last for any team sport? Whether it was kickball, soccer, volleyball or anything else, that kid was me. I’ll be the first to admit it was warranted—I sucked at team sports. I just didn’t have enough confidence to really go after the ball.
When I was eighteen, I stumbled into a job that literally changed everything—whitewater raft guide. Somehow, I was good at it. I had a knack for reading the water and finessing my boat onto the right line. Best of all, with raft guiding I wasn’t competing against someone else and always coming up short.
My first season as a raft guide put my entire life on a new and different (and arguably much better) course. Because of that job, and the people I met and worked with, the following spring I moved out West and learned to whitewater kayak, ski, and mountain bike.
Over the years I traveled all over the U.S. working as a raft guide on six different rivers in five states. My husband and I met whitewater kayaking. I got my start as a writer with an article published in Canoe & Kayak magazines, and worked as a kayaking sports model.
Being a guide opened a whole new view of the world, and gave me a way to live and work in some of the most beautiful places in the country. Along the way, I gained a ton of confidence in my strengths and abilities. Because, frankly, when you’ve skied a narrow, rocky chute, or paddled a Class V waterfall, interviewing for a job, finding a place to live, or paying the bills doesn’t seem nearly as challenging.
For years, I kept a poster in my office of the largest waterfall I ever ran (Oceana on Tallulah Gorge in N. Georgia, shown above, if you’re curious). Anytime I was scared of something, I reminded myself that if I could do that, I could do anything. Along the way, I realized these sports were teaching me a ton about how to live a happy and fulfilled life.
What do you think? I’d love to know in the comments below.
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