As we grow up, many of us begin working on our life plan that consists of what is expected of us by friends and family, and influences from interactions and our informed opinions. Whether these are our actual passions or not can only be told in time. Sometimes, after following this plan, you wake up and realize that you need to hit the reset button and start from the beginning to reintroduce yourself to yourself. UNBOUND looks at this journey in understanding the ultimate self, honoring the past lessons and growing the seeds of a new life that can be truly embraced. We chatted with Steph Jagger, who found this connection through hitting the pause button and hitting the slopes, and shared her novel of self-discovery with us.
ATHLEISURE MAG: Steph, it's so good to connect with you as your book is the perfect blend of goal setting, humor, self-discovery, honesty, and weighted reflection - what are your 3 biggest takeaways from the Vertical Feat experience?
STEPH JAGGER: My three biggest take aways from my journey are:
• Moving from fear based motivation, which came with truck loads of ego, to what I call “love based motivation” – asking myself if this is going to help me grow and expand and transform versus asking myself what this will help me prove.
• I also learned so much about the feminine and what strength means for women. I used to have a masculine ideal, one that came with an “armor up and go into battle” mentality and know I see strength very differently. I see it as putting all the armor down, as being authentic and vulnerable with yourself as well as others.
• Last but not least…huge take away about the quality of red meat in Argentina. And chocolate, and wine!
AM: We fell in love with many of the people that you mentioned in the book
- do you still talk to or visit some of our faves, Tree, Joseph and the group that you met in Chile?
SJ: Of course! I just saw Tree this week. She’s still a close friend and Joseph is still very much my yoda…in fact, I call him my wizard. I wrote a fair chunk of the book at his estate in Tel Aviv and I plan on seeing him later this year. I’m still in touch with MANY of the others and of course, spoiler alert, Chris and I are still sharing a bed!
AM: Going into the Vertical Feat you were set on check marking this goal, but did you have other matters you were wrestling with in order to find yourself besides realizing that you had been a goat who was really a Tiger?
SJ: Ultimately I wrestled with a lot of things – goat to tiger and also masculine ideal as my predominant belief system to a balanced masculine and feminine ideal. I didn’t have a clue that would be part of my journey, but that’s how the Universe works. It’s very smart. It baits you into adventures using something that will snag your ego just enough to pull you in – “Hey, over here!!! How about 4,000,000 feet???” – and once you’re on the journey the truth and the battles and the learning all unfold.
AM: What lessons can we take from Unbound when people are in a transitional experience?
SJ: I think that is the truth of transition. What you think you’re getting into is probably not what you’re getting into. I also think we need to look at transition (even positive ones) as part of the grief process. Becoming a mother means letting go of and grieving the woman you were in your teens and twenties. Becoming a person who values feminine ideals means potentially letting go of and grieving the people in your life that are still operating under a masculine-only ideal. If you’re looking to transition to the monkey bar in front of you, you HAVE TO let go of the one you’re holding on behind you.
AM: We were so happy to see that you and Chris got married and that you did embark on a different journey, what is your life like now in terms of career, where you live?
SJ: My life right now is very much based around the principal of having two things and two things only on my bucket list: Am I listening to what I am called to do…AND, when I hear it, do I have the courage to do it. That’s how I decide what projects to work on, where to travel, etc. To get technical, Chris and I currently live on the edge of a canyon on southern California with our giant black dog, Auggie. I run my coaching company from home and split time between that and writing. Our plan…because we’ve felt the call…is to return to the mountains in the coming months. Our hope would be to move to Colorado or BC by the summer-time.
AM: Do you see yourself taking on other challenges of this nature?
SJ: Yes and no. I’ll refer back to question five…if I’m called to go on another adventure of this nature, I hope I’ll heed the call. That said, I just don’t feel it…I feel other adventures rolling towards me. More books, perhaps a career in speaking, MORE travelling for sure but perhaps with less of an agenda. So yes and no.
AM: We loved that you came to terms with being someone who could accept their femininity while also embracing an aggressive nature and that you could be both - why do you think that some women find that to be difficult?
SJ: I think a lot of women find that to be difficult. The idea of having it all. The concept of balance. The desire to be aggressive, persistent, ambitious, etc. with a career, at the same time as being a friend, a mother, a daughter, a sister…roles that often require a fair bit of nurturing, slowing down, etc. I think that’s the question of our generation – how do we first choose what it is we want (with consciousness and a lack of guilt) and then how do we actually make that happen in the real world…hint hint…this might be a theme of my second book.
The why behind it all feeling difficult has everything to do with the way our society is structured. The expectations placed on women (and men for that matter) to play certain roles, the patriarchical ideal. I could go on about this but I think it’s built into our collective thought process.
AM: If you were able to do this trip all over again, what would you change?
SJ: Nothing. Not a thing. It all lead me to where I am and who I am today and I’m very proud of that. From a technical standpoint I probably wouldn’t have planned as much so I could have responded better to the weather as it happened. Other than that…nothing.
AM: What mementos did you keep from your trip as a means to remember the experience?
SJ: What do I have to remember the trip…um, well, a book for starters! Ha! I don’t tend to lug mementos around, but I do have some gorgeous photos, a husband, and a small Japanese change purse that help me remember it all.
AM: What was your favorite mountain/resort to ski at during the Vertical Feat and what was your favorite place/experience that you went to unwind while you were on this journey?
SJ: Favorite resort – SO HARD. I still LOVE Whistler/Blackcomb, but Jackson Hole, and Alta are also standouts. I’ll always remember Cerro Catedral in Argentina, because it’s where I met Chris and Happo One in Japan is out of this world – in fact, the whole Hakuba Valley in Japan is out of this world. I’ll also make the latter the fav place to relax. A ski and then an onsen (Japanese hot baths) at the end of the day?!? You can’t get much better than that. Unless of course, you’re at the Scandinave Spa up in Whistler – that place is also to die for when it comes to pampering and relaxation.
AM: We love the concept of Shibumi and how you found it at various times, what is your Shibumi moment now?
SJ: My Shibumi moment now is the book tour. It can’t be perfect, travel plans get messed up, I’ve got a bit of a sore throat going at the moment, I lost my ski socks somewhere...BUT, I feel like my energy is aligned with the book and that when I go out and connect with people at event and local bookstores there’s an effortless perfection to the interaction and exchanges that are happening. That makes me very happy. It’s total Shibumi!
AM: What was the process like in writing this book and how is your book tour going?
SJ: Well, I just told you a little about the book tour and I think I would say similar things about the writing process. It’s utter shibumi – it’s a glorious mess, it's throwing words around and cutting and chopping and praying and surrender and faith that it will all work out in the end. It's discipline but also freedom.
I loved the writing process, the concept of learning and honing my very rough skills as a writer. I hope I get to keep doing it. What a gift of an opportunity I’ve had to unravel my own narrative and sew it back up together again. If that’s not Shibumi, I don’t know what is!
AM: What's next for you?
SJ: What’s next for me is a question I get a lot – most times it comes in the form of “What’s on your bucket list” – there are two things – One, am I listening for the call to adventure. Two, do I have the courage to say yes when I hear it. I really do feel a second book coming to the surface and as I mentioned before, Chris and I would love to find the perfect home in the mountains. And a vacation! Maybe a visit to Greece to see my dearest Joseph! He just built a new home there and we’ve been dying to see it. Just thinking of the sun and calamari makes me drool.
AM: What would you tell someone who decided to go on a path of self-discovery (not necessarily in the same manner that you did) so that they could expect many of the feelings that you came to grasp with?
SJ: This is such a huge question. First I would ask them if they had three or four hours and a good bottle of wine or two. Then I would sit down with them and I would read them Joseph Campbell quotes for hours. I would tell them “you must let go of the life you have planned, as to accept the one that is waiting for you” and I would also go all Sue Monk Kidd on them and tell them that “the truth may set you free, but first it will shatter the safe, sweet way you live.” Then I would tell them to leave the rest of the wine with me. After that, I’d hand them my phone number and tell them they’ve got an open line and to call when ever they want, I would say, “Search for the best, most wildest version of you and when you find it grab it and don’t let go. Oh…and you know that when you’re on the monkey bars of life, you MUST let go of the one behind you in order to grasp the one in front of you…you know that right???” That’s what I’d say.
Pictures courtesy of Steph Jagger and book cover by Harper Wave/Harper Collins