Let me just set the scene. Wednesday, January 27, the twelve people in my snowboarding class were all riding up the ski lift to the top of Tussey Mountain. The lights reflected off the snow, revealing that it was actually more ice than snow. The sound of skis and snowboards scraping against the snow echoed all around us and for the first time ever since I had started snowboarding, I was nervous. It had been warm that day but since noon the temperature had plummeted, turning the once fluffy snow into a dangerous sheet of ice. I had been to Vermont, I had done a black diamond before, but none of that mattered.
I wasn’t snowboarding that night; I was ice-skating. And I’m not a good ice skater.
It was sketchy. The whole night I felt like I just couldn’t get my feet underneath me and really get comfortable. It was maybe before the last run that I thought, okay, I’m going to survive this night. The bottom of the mountain was maybe three hundred yards away. I could see it. We were three-quarters of the way down the hill and I was daydreaming about putting on some fuzzy socks and my pajamas when another guy in my class came flying across the trail in front of me. We both fell and slid to a stop to avoid colliding and for a few seconds as we sat on the edge of the trail, seemingly out of harm’s way, we laughed about how close we had come to a major crisis. I rolled over to get back up but I was rolling onto my elbow, I heard a shout and then I was suddenly knocked back down to my other side.
My body immediately went into shock, because physics. Because Newton said an object in motion stays in motion. And the greater the acceleration/velocity of an object, and the greater the mass of the object, the greater the force it will have when it comes into contact with another object. The snowboard kept moving – my face did not.
My first thought: HOLY CRAP MY EYE JUST POPPED OUT OF MY HEAD. (Okay, maybe some more foul language but for the sake of keeping things PG.) The impact of the snowboard had shoved my goggles up over my eyes but once discovering that both eyes were still there – and my contacts, more importantly – I moved on to thinking that my jaw was broken. But once realizing that I was saying “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” over and over again, it was safe to conclude that my jaw also still intact. The classmate that had been sitting in front of me the whole time was just telling me to breathe and calling for our instructor. I felt it then though. I looked at him and asked, “Is my face bleeding?” It took him a few seconds to answer but then he nodded and said “Uh, yeah!”
A trip to ski patrol, a very bloody bandana, a trip to the emergency room, about six injections of painkillers and eighteen stitches later and I’m left with two rather gruesome lacerations on my face.
The shining light in all of this was that my big brother just so happened to be in town for the night with my uncle. I was able to call him and tell him calmly (I was sobbing) that I needed to go to the emergency room because I needed a few (eighteen) stitches. Two hours later we were all in the ER and a physician was bent over my face, trying to sew me back together. Everyone kept saying the same thing to me: We’ll do the best we can but it will leave a scar. For some reason I just kept repeating Humpdee-Dumpdee in my head. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men…The best part was when my ginger genes kicked in. Fun fact: gingers metabolize anesthesia at a higher rate than anyone else. I’m not a biology major so I can’t say why but after waking up in the middle of my wisdom teeth surgery, I’d say that it’s true. The physician doing my stitches had to inject me with anesthesia maybe every other stitch he did until I eventually told him to just do it without. Anything to avoid waking up with my face the size of the moon in the morning.
My brother made fun of me the whole time and we were maybe ten feet out of the hospital before he started calling me Scarface (which he still does, two months later). I can’t say there’s a moral to this story. Maybe don’t go snowboarding when it’s icy? I got my stitches out six days later and went snowboarding again that next week – albeit a little traumatized.
There was a brief moment where I cried on the phone to my mom saying over and over again how I’ll never find a husband now (because that’s totally what all twenty-year-olds are most worried about). Everyone kept telling me that I looked like a total badass but that’s easy to say when you’re not the one with stitches in your face. Strangely enough, this experience somehow made me more confident. I’ve never been a particularly self-conscious person when it comes to appearance but for the first time in a long time, I was forced to walk around for multiple weeks with my face completely bare and without makeup. In that time I was forced to focus solely on my internal beauty and somehow taking that good, hard look was what I needed. I love myself not because I think I’m pretty but because I know that my scars could never outweigh what I personally feel I have on the inside. In a way I wish every girl could go through something like this. These days we just focus too much on physical aesthetic. Let me just say this though: nobody goes to the Sistine Chapel to look admire it’s external beauty. Sure, it’s pretty but the real value is within.
Most importantly, remember that it took Michelangelo four years of lying on his back to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. If you’re looking to grow within, it is going to take time and it’s not always going to be comfortable but in the end, you’ll be a masterpiece.