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#IAmSJ: What I’ve Learned

Rachel Reich has been manning SheJumps’ social media for the past three years – helping grow our online community and social presence as an organization. She is a freelance marketing specialist, splitboard mountaineer and aspiring ski guide who makes her home in Jackson, WY. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @theracheden.

When I first came across SheJumps, I was lost. I remember I had just started getting into backcountry splitboarding with my then boyfriend, and each experience left me feeling scared and unprepared. I was no novice to the backcountry; growing up gallivanting in the mountains of Western North Carolina, a NOLS Mountaineering grad and mountain lover – but I couldn’t seem to find my place. I remember seeing an Avalanche Awareness course put on by SheJumps in those early days and all I could think was – finally, this is where I belong.

I never took that course. I was too caught up in my life at the time but SheJumps remained in the back of my mind. Fast forward a few years later and once again, I was lost. I had just moved away from my friends, a stable job and community to Jackson, WY in search of something different. Finding myself in a new place with nothing was overwhelming. I remember seeing a post asking for a social media volunteer on the SheJumps Facebook page, and at that moment, I jumped.

Photo: Liz Sampey

It’s been three years since I first emailed Claire Smallwood and offered to help manage SJ social media. Within that time I’ve had the opportunity to meet women who make me get up in the morning, who inspire me to push a little bit further and be a little bit better and know that the best things in life sometimes start with that first step. As an athlete who was originally a non-believer in “female power”.  As someone who thought you had to go with the boys to be taken seriously and to push the limits, I have learned so much while investing and helping grow a community of outdoor women. Here are a few takeaways I want to share from my experience:

It’s ok to be feminine. You shouldn’t let yourself be defined by what you wear or what you don’t. If you find it comfortable to dress more masculine, own it – but splitboarding in pearl earrings doesn’t make me push any less hard and wearing dresses doesn’t express what I can or can’t do in the mountains. I am pretty in my own skin and if I want to look cute and match my outerwear, it shouldn’t matter.

Photo: Hedda Peterson

It’s ok to ski, bike, climb and get out with other women. It makes you stronger to cultivate these communities. For many of the years I traveled with guy friends, I felt they pushed me but I would never be good enough. It was discouraging and left me feeling dependent on my male partners to lead the way. My first female ski mountaineering partner not only made our adventures fun, but made me feel like I was capable of anything. The year we started skiing together ended up being my most successful season in the mountains. Never underestimate the power of your friends to push your boundaries. Furthermore, never underestimate the power of women to push harder than men. Ski mountaineer Kim Havell comes to mind in this area, but there are so many others. Gender doesn’t always matter. Drive does.

Photo: Jenny Wolfrom

It’s ok to be vulnerable. I’m unfortunately one of those people who wear my emotions on my face. For a long time I thought it made you weak to show fear, or emotion. Spending time in a community of women has taught me otherwise. We have our biggest breakthroughs when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. When we’re scared and we have the chance to talk through it, the impossible seems possible again.

You will drive each other outside as well as in life. The successes I’ve seen from outdoor communities of women don’t stop at the trailhead. I’ve seen so many friends take ideas formed on a bike ride to full on businesses, promotions, and new endeavors. Pretty Faces wasn’t just a success for the athletes involved but also for the women filled production and editing team, who had a chance to put their talents into something they were passionate about.

You might start enjoying doing things with women more. This was an enlightening experience for me. I used to only ski with guys and now I prefer going out women much more. It doesn’t mean every day or all the time – I have plenty of male partners I love to get after it with. But 5 years ago, I had a much different take. Embrace what feels best and find your own balance.

Photo: Liz Sampey

Do what you love and have fun with it. Despite all of this – do what you love. Do it every day. Do it even when it’s hard. Do it even when people tell you it’s impossible, or too difficult or any other myriad of excuses but be willing to enjoy the journey. My favorite stories in the mountains are one’s where seemingly everything goes wrong, but my partner and I end up cracking each other up at the ridiculous journey. In most of these tales, we still end up being successful but it would have been so much more painful if we didn’t enjoy the ride. Most importantly: use your head but follow your heart, and hug your girlfriends because they’ll always be by your side knowing you can succeed.

Photo: Rachel Reich

Thank you to so many women I’ve had the chance to work with over the past few years. Our community of fans as well as all of our Directors, Regional Coordinators and Ambassadors continue to inspire me daily. I would not be the person I am now or in the place I am in now without all of you. Here’s to the next jump in our lives. Always and forever, #IAmSJ.

Featured Image Credit: Jason Laabs

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