Kaya Williams: Take heart | AspenTimes.com

Kaya Williams: Take heart

Love or indifference? In skiing, writing and living, there’s only one right answer

Kaya Williams, reporter for the Aspen Times and Snowmass Sun

The saying goes that it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, but I don’t think that we have to experience loss to understand the pain that comes with loving something so dearly that it becomes a part of our identity.

I find it true often enough in this gig, which I love because I love writing, and I love storytelling, and I love building community by way of listening to the people who are a part of it.

There’s a part of me — most of me, really — that has a hard time imagining myself doing anything else, anywhere else but here.

I have occasionally felt physically, mentally, emotionally and creatively spent in this field notorious for its long hours and mental toll, in this town notorious for its steep cost of living and sometimes extreme pace of life. (You may object with some “mountain time” quip, but my overbooked calendar disagrees.)

But I have also felt more abundantly fulfilled and rewarded for my efforts than I have in any other job any other place. I meet some local old-timer who reframes the way I think about the world, or I get a kind note from a reader about a story that sparked a memory, and I forget and maybe forgive the weekend shift and the longer-than-usual government meeting and the pricier-than-it-should-be dinner that I bought for sustenance while I wrote.

Besides, it’s more than a little likely that I put myself into that worn-out position by pouring myself completely into this job and this life.

I see some parallels in skiing, especially in the way so many of us around here approach the sport with an unequivocal passion and unconditional love for the sport.

There are days that bring a sheer bliss unlike anything else on Earth: a bluebird bowl hike; a crisp corduroy morning; that kind of free-refills afternoon when the visibility is nil, but the face shots make up for it tenfold.

There also are days that the sport doesn’t love us back the way we love it. Think about that morning when you hang a wrong right in search of buttery turns and find yourself on frozen, crusty leftovers instead; that icy midwinter lunch lap when you just barely scrape your way down to the base of Nell; that single-digit morning when it feels so cold you wonder if you, too, may only have a single functioning digit left on your hands when you get back to the base.

We put ourselves in these situations because we wanted to prove something, maybe, but also because we’ve poured ourselves into this sport and made it a part of our identity as individual people and as a community. We go for an easy sunset skin after work at Buttermilk, or we find an untouched run on Ruthie’s, and we forget or maybe forgive the times that skiing hurt our ego and our fingers.

It makes us love it more, it seems. We even take a kind of pride in it, in the suffering we put ourselves through to do the things we love so much that they become inextricable from who we are.

I think that’s why it feels so much more like a pang than a pinch when the thought crosses, even for a second, that it might all be a lot easier if we cared a little less. Put your whole heart into something, and you’ll find that it messes with your head, too.

It’s tempting, isn’t it?

The pragmatic in me can see that indifference probably would save all of us a lot of emotional energy in the long run. If change is the only constant, we probably ought to shrug our collective shoulders and say “Eh, it is what it is” to protect ourselves. We’d all probably sleep more and split fewer hairs if we weren’t always thinking about the fate and future of skiing and our community; I know I’d have more free time if I traded five-version stories and burning the midnight oil for quick-hit roundups and a 9-to-5.

The romantic in me knows better. To sacrifice even a bit of the care we give to the things that make us who we are — simpler though it may be and less painful — would come at a great cost of the richness that fills a life in Aspen, a life on skis or a life in writing. If I’m lucky, I’ll keep loving all three for a very long time.

Kaya Williams considers herself a romantic pragmatic who believes we all stand to benefit from applying both love and logic to the things we hold dear. She covers education, mental health, food and the town of Snowmass Village for the Aspen Times and The Snowmass Sun; email her at kwilliams@aspentimes.com.