Stride Stories: Living between the lines of comfort and danger

[Emily is a Stride member & ambassador. She and her boyfriend Corey make a living by living on the road. Read more about how they make their independent life work.]

A decade ago I dreamed of being a professional snowboarder, and so I chased around small competitions in New England…

This was the moment. My board and I were traveling downhill, towards a repurposed limousine with a metal, unforgiving rail fastened to its roof. I could feel unwavering spectator eyeballs following my movement. Suddenly, a tiny, powerful voice spoke from within, ARE YOU CRAZY? YOU CAN’T DO THIS. My mind jerked my body into a rigid stance, perhaps an effort to protect itself. But I jumped for the rail anyway, lacking a crucial piece of commitment that self-doubt had robbed me of.

Silence. Flying through the air. Shhhhllllliiiiccckkkk. My board made contact with the metal rail on top of the limo. Silence again... this time as I fell from grace. THUMP. My knee fully took the impact. Just like that, my world changed... torn ACL and meniscus, a ride in the stretcher, a night in the ER, and four months of recovery.

For the first few weeks after my fall, I was certain I would need surgery. However, the doctor, who was also the surgeon, suggested waiting. I don’t know about you, but when a surgeon suggests an alternative to surgery, I listen. After an MRI, we learned that the ACL tear was partial with low instability issues, and my chances of full recovery without surgery were high. The doctor prescribed weeks on crutches and a complete course of physical therapy. It worked. I healed. The physical therapist forced my graduation when I demonstrated a back flip during a session. That’s it, you’re healed! Get out of here! I’ll always remember the big smile on his face as I bounced out of the office.

My healed knee was put to the test when I completed an olympic length-triathlon without a glitch, and hiked down and up the Grand Canyon. To this day, my knees facilitate my relationship to gravity efficiently while practicing yoga, dancing, surfing, biking, hiking and still, snowboarding. The commitment that I lost on the mountain was reclaimed during recovery and after, through continuous commitment to myself and movement.

That infamous night with the limo rail was a decade ago, and I still hit rails. However, today when I meet a rail face-to-face, I am looking into a mirror. I see my strengths, weakness, doubts, and intuition. It’s all laid out, right there. So I honor myself by asking is the rail within my capability based on how I feel, today? If the answer is yes, I squash my doubt before it comes knocking. Doubt, thank you, but you are not welcome here right now.

Rails are my life's reminder to live between the lines of comfort and danger... in a zone where we create our own freedom, joy is abundant, and we find our own Stride.