The Other 99%

Open Mic is the series on BLISTER where we invite various people in the outdoor industry to say what they have to say, and share whatever it is they feel like sharing at this particular point in time.

Today, we hear from Angel Collinson:

Angel Collinson shares some of her thoughts on purpose, mindfulness, and leaning into 100% of life, not just the peak experiences.
Angel Collinson on Sea Bear (photo by Pete Willauer)

I spent the past 10 years making a living by skiing down mountains as fast and as best I could.

Then, after making a name for myself in the ski industry, I recently retired, fixed up a sailboat with my partner, Pete, and am sailing around the world.

The experience of living aboard our own sailboat is a dream come true — a dream many of us have. It’s amazing, it’s beautiful, joyful, free.

It’s also confusing, hard, and it’s uncomfortable quite a bit of the time.

I don’t know what’s next for me. But I know this is the experience I am supposed to be having right now.

And yet, I still feel lost.

I’ve done quite a lot this past year. I’ve quit my professional skiing career. I launched an entirely new business of Ayurvedic health coaching. I packed my life up and put it into storage and moved onto a sailboat. I have sailed across the Atlantic ocean, twice. (I had never sailed offshore before, so this was kind of a full send.) I gave up everything I knew about mountain life to learn about the mysteries of the ocean.

I’ve stumbled into (and also worked hard for) lifestyles people dream of — and I’m inspired to write from a place of humility and humanity, of reality. Because, ultimately, I think that we all want the same thing:

We want the climax.
We want the peak experience.
We want the joy.
We hope for the best of the best as often as possible.

But that’s not always the reality.

We don’t want the pain, the grief, the frustration, the self-doubt. The lows that inevitably come with the highs. We don’t really want the full reality of life.

A friend of mine and Pete’s recently wrote us, “You can’t have the 10’s without the zero’s.”

The first time I blew my knee, my mentor, Sage Cattabriga-Alosa said, “You gotta have the lows to have the highs.”

And while we all know that to be true, we still want to avoid the lows at all costs.

We’re all junkies.

We’re all searching for that peak experience. The highest high. Our highest test score, the best powder day, our best performance. The time we actually lose ourself in our artistic endeavors and create a masterpiece. The most epic love-making session that defies what we previously knew about human connection. The time when we get lost in flow state in meditation, dance, creation, sports, you name it — when it all melts away and we ride a wave of temporary and blissful perfection.

And then it passes. And we are left with our mundane reality, the other 99% of our life.

It can feel depressing.

I live the life many people dream of, and yet, my peak experiences still constitute only 1% of my time. The rest is spent fixing mistakes, getting stuck in rainstorms, feeling hopeless or confused, scared, befuddled by new problems that continue to come up.

Yet I’m always holding out for the highs. Not obsessively, just humanly chasing them.
Trying to deal with coming down from them. Trying to avoid the low feeling that inevitably comes as the contrast after the high. Trying to avoid the void.

Can you relate?

And yet, it’s in the lows — in my pain — that’s where I remember our humanity. That’s where I remember we are all so similar, so human, so in need of connection. Coming up from my lows, I remember the beauty of life almost more profoundly than after my highs.

Pete and I have been busting our asses trying to get to the destination of “Cold beer, tropical paradise, buns in the sun, good vibes. Freedom.”

And a few days ago … we got it.

We were sitting in the cockpit with cold beers and fish tacos, skinny dipping and playing our tunes loud, anchored in sparkling turquoise water next to a white sand beach in a bay with no one around, the golden sun kissing our bare skin. And we were like, “Holy Shit. We’re doing it. This moment — right now — is a peak experience. We’ve worked hard for two years dreaming of moments like this exact one.”

And it felt so sweet to realize that in the moment: This is as good as life can get right now! This is what we have been striving for, sweating for, crying for, sacrificing for! And I’m being honest when I say it took us two years to get here. I say this because I think from the outside, (or at least, it’s what I imagined going into this) that such moments would constitute the majority of the time. Our experience hasn’t been that.

But what I also realized in that moment: the other 99% of the time that it took to get here was not NOT a peak experience. I’d actually been having peak experiences of every emotion along the way.

A peak experience of grief is realizing that I am grieving, and fully going there. Holding nothing back and feeling the pain. I grieve many things, including the things I love that I have had to let go of to make room for something better.

Though I was so ready to leave skiing, it was the only constant in my life for 30 years. And boy, feeling that void in my life makes me incredibly sad sometimes. The lowest experience of grief is not even realizing what it is I am feeling, and just feeling down, awful, lost, and trying to claw tooth and nail away from whatever it is I am in. Grief, unrealized, is not a peak experience of itself. It sucks.

Similarly, a peak experience of doubt is the moment I realize that I am feeling doubtful — and I don’t fall prey to the story behind it. When my mind is telling me all of the reasons why I am going to fail, but then I have the striking thought, “Oh! I am experiencing doubt right now.” That is a peak experience of doubt! It’s not a holy grail moment. It doesn’t make the doubt go away, it just puts it into perspective. So instead of it eating at my soul and my self-confidence, I can watch it, and let it pass. That’s as good as experiencing doubt can get. And that experience of it actually isn’t so bad.

I’m learning that with all of my emotions, there is a full spectrum to each of them I can explore. I can even have peak experiences at my lowest moments, with my most challenging of emotions. It just has a different flavor than the highs of joy or ecstasy. For me, what it takes is patience, self-awareness, and the willingness to see things through. It makes the other 99% of my time — the striving — feel purposeful and full.

Because I don’t want to be always seeking something better. I’ve lived some high highs. I’ve seen some low lows. I know we all have. So here is to learning how to alchemize our experiences. To feel at peace with whatever is showing up in our lives — when our boat is broken in the middle of the Atlantic. When we are sleep deprived while raising our children. When we are tending our gardens, or receiving some unknown future honor or award.

Here’s to the 0’s and the 10’s. The full 100% of life. May we lean in and learn how to love it all.

About Angel Collinson

As Angel puts it, she is a “skier of mountains, baby sailor of boats. Singer of songs, hounder of rocks. Haver of good times and lover of this planet.”

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8 comments on “The Other 99%”

  1. Excellent and awesome insights Angel, and totally corresponds with my experience as well.

    FYI: I am a male age 74, teacher, grandad, dad, husband, lifelong skier, boater, (ex) gymnast, handyman, etc etc.
    As Warren Miller famously said when referring to ski adventures (it applies universally). “Do it this winter, because if you don’t, you will be another year older when you do.”

  2. Angel – amazing insights and I couldn’t agree more that it’s 100% worth being 100% present in everything that one experiences. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do next.

    Blister Team – great post!

  3. This very article was desperately needed at the time I read it. I just didn’t know I needed to read this until I randomly followed a link from your instagram story. Thank you for putting words to a feeling that has been gnawing away at me lately and I couldn’t recognize it or name it. (I like labels apparently.) Thank you for your insight!

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