When I was a kid, I wanted to be a ballerina. I’d stay late in the studio and watch the older girls in pointe class, with their impassive faces and impossible jetés. Then, shortly after I got my own pointe shoes, I quit. Not because I stopped wanting to be a ballerina, but because every Sunday my legs were so saturated with lactic acid from nonstop Derailers, Railbenders, Drunken Frenchmen, and Golden Spikes at Mary Jane, Colo., the day before that I could not developpé them off the floor. Saturdays were for skiing, for trying to keep up with my older brother—at all costs.
I sunburned my face until it blistered. I broke my goggles catching my tips on a backscratcher. I fell down Hole in the Wall and was stopped by tree trunks. Every week I limped my freshly ripped muscle fibers off the Eskimo Ski Club bus, then sometimes went straight to bed without dinner, my mind replaying my lines over and over as I fell asleep. Then I’d spend the rest of the week easing myself in and out of chairs, up and down stairs, and through painful tendu-pliés, hoping I’d recover enough by next Saturday to do it all again. Sure, I could have quit skiing instead. But I apparently knew, even then, that when you get a shot at pure, reckless joy, you take it. Priorities. Mine, it seems, are still in order.