Reflections Moving Forward

By Emily Thomas
Distinguished Young Woman of Massachusetts for 2012

It’s always been a goal of mine to learn how to ski. My dad was an avid skier when he was growing up and would always tell me tales of adventure and thrill. Every winter, however, things would come up and the season of snow would pass yet again before I got the chance to try it. This winter however, with a 6-week break from school, I was determined to try. Last week, my dad and I took a day to travel up to New Hampshire where he would teach me how to ski. As excited as I was, the second I put the skis on my feet I felt incredibly awkward and clumsy. How on earth was I supposed to gracefully glide down a mountain with these things if I could barely control them enough to walk a flat foot? I looked up at the foreboding mountain and the seasoned skiers that moved down a steep trail and thought to myself “I’ll get there someday, just not today.”
My dad told me we were taking a chairlift up a little ways to a simple, practically flat beginners run where I could figure things out. It wasn’t even a part of the mountain. He assured me it would be easy, and he explained the basics to me. Once we experimented with that trail and I began to figure things out, he took me back on the chairlift but this time up the mountain. I was so nervous, but my dad assured me it was the easiest trail and that nothing was going to happen. I remember being at the top of the mountain, not knowing how I was going to make it to the bottom. All I knew was that I wasn’t going to let it scare me and I certainly wasn’t going to say I rode all the way to the top just to take the chairlift back down. So, I took a deep breath, trusted myself, took my time, and made it down the mountain. It was much easier than I had thought and I had a so much fun going down. When we both reached the base, my dad told me to turn around. I looked up at what I had just come down, and realized that it was the trail I had looked up at in the very beginning when I told myself I was never going to make it past phase one today.
As winter break comes to an end and I prepare for my second semester of college, I find myself doing a lot of reflecting on my successful first semester, the challenges I overcame, and the challenges that lay ahead. I can’t help but see a lot of parallels between this simple skiing adventure and my college experiences. At the beginning of my first semester, I had the same wave of emotions as any other college freshman. I was nervous, excited, anxious, determined, overwhelmed, and a little sad to leave home and move on to the next chapter in my life. When classes finally started and I realized the academic trials that I was about to endure, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through it all. All I knew was that I had to and that was enough to motivate me. With a positive attitude, I didn’t let the thought of the challenge burden me before I even got the chance to tackle it. This was the same exact mindset I had while skiing for the first time. I know that if I can use this philosophy with every challenge that comes before me, through school and beyond, I will have the best chance to succeed.
Time really does fly, but it sometimes doesn’t feel that way until you look back on all that has happened. Whether it’s a whole semester of school or making it down a mountain on skis in one piece, I’ve learned to embrace every trial and tribulation, trust myself to get through it, and enjoy the learning experience before it’s over.
Emily Thomas is a college freshman at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts majoring in Chemistry and Secondary Education. Originally from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Emily was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Massachusetts for 2012. Learn more about Emily here!

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