Nick’s Notes: Asking for Help
December 11, 2014
I first heard about it on Facebook.
On December 7th, 2009, a friend of my former high school teacher and cross country ski coach Patti Soderberg posted that she had passed away the previous evening.
Patti died accidentally in her hot tub. The pain and grief from her loss quickly rippled through my small community of boarding school alumni and teachers.
I called my former roommate, my ex-girlfriend, and got checked on by some former teachers
Her death hit us all in the collective gut. Patti was a bright, bubbly person who always liked to have fun. One time she brought double-stuff Oreos into my dorm wing at 10 p.m.
She quickly regretted that decision when she tried to get eight high school boys into their rooms thirty minutes later.
She wasn't the most technical of ski coaches, but she enthusiastically cheered us on while we raced, even if we were the slowest skiers on the course, which we often were.
Our high school team was a quirky bunch. We weren't great skiers, but we found joy in being out on the trails together. A lot of that joy came from Patti.
If she couldn't make you smile, her two slobbery St. Bernards, Skada and Freya would. That's why we were all shocked when we learned of her struggle.
Patti was an alcoholic. I don't think anyone in our tight-knit boarding school community knew about her illness. I didn't find out about it until after I graduated.
I stayed in touch with her and her husband after leaving high school, but I never broached the subject. It was hard for us to understand her burden because she made every effort to lighten ours.
Through Patti, I learned that cross country skiing is the ultimate team sport. Even though you are on the course by yourself, you don't do it alone. You have people help you wax your skis.
Your coaches go over the race course with you. You draft with your teammates and they encourage you. And sometimes, you have someone waiting for you with a hug and a warm meal after the race. That person was always Patti.
I don't believe in the archetype of the self-made person, especially in the sports world.
Individual effort and self-motivation go a long way, but there is always someone there who offers a helping hand when you need it.
So if you need help, please let others know. Whether it is with an inner struggle or a small problem, don't be afraid to reach out. The world can't afford to have any more bright lights like Patti snuffed out too early.