Confessions of an Adrenaline Junkie

New York City is not my world. Crowds, tourists, and enclosed spaces represent three of my greatest pet peeves. Going to crowded bars encompasses these three elements, and makes me extremely anxious and on edge. More than these, I need adventure in my life. Of course in New York City we can have “adventures”, but I’ve never done anything in the City that makes me want to just scream with excitement. I used to do activities like that on a daily basis. In college, I never drank that much, never did drugs, because I’m addicted to one of the most powerful drugs around. Hi, my name’s John and I’m an adrenaline junkie.

We all know what adrenaline does to us. It’s produced in situations of extreme stress and coincides with the fight or flight response. Adrenaline turns off all the stop measures that keep our bodies from overworking themselves. When you have adrenaline pumping in your veins, you will be stronger, faster and smarter than at other time in your life. For most people, this scares the shit out of them. If I had to estimate, probably 90% of people choose flight in a fight or flight situation almost all the time. Because of the situations I’ve put myself in, I’ve experienced the effects of adrenaline and I crave it.

My main source of my favorite drug for my entire life has been skiing. When my mom was eight months pregnant with me, she went skiing. Before I could stand, my mom was skiing with me in a backpack. As soon as I could stand I was in skis. I love skiing because of the peace and power of the mountain, but it also gives me the constant supply of excitement. I’ve reached a level in skiing where I can at least try most things. I can do o.k. in a half pipe. I can go into a terrain park and hit any kicker. In the backcountry, I handle anything except the highest cliffs. With this comes a degree of risk. Watch what happens to Simon Dumont here:

So to do some of the things I do while skiing, you have to go up to the challenge knowing that if you don’t execute perfectly, it’s going to hurt. Trust me, I’ve done something similar to what Dumont and there is the moment in mid air where you just have to accept the incoming pain.

Despite the pain that chasing adventure has caused me, I still crave it. During high school and college I’d try to get skiing at least 50 times a year. Most people won’t ski that often in their entire life. My family and I have spent thousands of dollars chasing the perfect day skiing even going so far as to go to Chamonix, France and ski the famous Valle Blanch where a wrong turn could lead to death.

In November of my senior year in college I tore my posterior cruciate ligament. This required surgery and as a result I have an Achilles tendon where the PCL should be. So that year, for the first time in my life I didn’t go skiing. The rehabilitation process was long and hard, but I set the goal for myself to ski the following year. It was while I could barely walk that I made the decision to join Teach for America in New York City. To be honest, I think had I been in the middle of an epic ski season, I might not have made that choice. Living in New York last year, I obviously didn’t get a chance to enjoy the Northeast’s ski destinations. I did however meet my goal of skiing last year when I went home. I got up to the mountain for three days, and was able to ski all runs I normally would ski on my home mountain of Mt. Hood. It hurt, but I did it.

So where does that leave me now? I’m an adrenaline junkie who primarily gets his rush from skiing, but who has only skied 3 times in the past two years when I usually try to go 50 times. I haven’t been out of the City since school started. I’ve got City fever and I’m going through withdrawal of my favorite drug. This is starting to impact my relationships and even my teaching. I’m more on edge than ever and am wound up entirely too tight. Some really smart human wrote a book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, which I apparently have not read because right now the small stuff is setting me off into sometimes nuclear displays of stupidity and emotion.

I’m starting to try and take actions to rectify this situation. I’m getting away from the City for the weekend soon, and this winter I’m going to try and get more ski trips in (if our meager salary will allow me). I’m buying ski movies because strange as it may sound, watching these movies comforts and calms me down.

We all have our things that we need in life. For some of us, it could be an epic wardrobe. Some people need the social interaction of going out to bars. Others might enjoy running or working out. For me, it will always be the quiet storm of adrenaline that I experience while I’m skiing. It’s something that I can’t quite capture in words, and I doubt many understand. To help people who might have a different learning modality, this video may help shed some light on my life:

John Harlow


1 Comment

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One response to “Confessions of an Adrenaline Junkie

  1. yeah, i think people who don’t ski never quite get skiing. i suppose people who play an instrument feel the same about the rest of us. i’m pro skiing though. i taught in the rgv and the lack of skiing killed me. i took up triathlons to fill in!
    ps congrats on completing your two years.

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