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Work, Life, Diet, Balance
By: Peyton Hicks
As a full-time student, aspiring ski-world communicator, fitness fanatic, and a 1 in 10,000 individual with a rare genetic disorder, my life is never without chaos.
After countless 5 a.m. wake-ups for morning mountain skin ups, or grinding out last minute assignments, it’s safe to say I’m a certified morning person. On a less chaotic morning, I like to start my day off with a guided yoga practice, followed by a large cup of coffee and my special protein shake.
At birth, I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Phenylketonuria (PKU); an inherited gene mutation that causes amino acid to build up in the body (specifically in the brain). In other words, if I eat protein, it kills brain cells. To obtain the protein equivalencies that I need to grow, learn and function, I drink a metabolic shake every day called, “Bettermilk.” My shake is the energy source that initiates my outgoing, determined personality. Without it, I would suffer constant brain fog and would find immense difficulty in participating in the sports I am passionate about, like skiing. The more protein I eat, the more build-up I have, which causes irreversible brain damage.
After my shake, I am able to conquer the day. Or even a trek to either Bolton Valley, Sugarbush Mt. Ellen, or on rare occasions, Pico Mountain. As the current marketing intern for Vermont Adaptive, you can usually find me on the slopes, perusing from group to group, getting video footage with the Go-Pro or iPhone. As all mornings are, my Wednesday and Friday mornings are filled with friendly faces and warm welcomes in the program spaces, which only makes me more excited than I already am for the day ahead. As an intern on the team, everyday I meet someone new, which is always my favorite part of the day.
On my remote work days, I’m in my apartment overlooking Burlington from my 5th-floor view of Champlain College or at a coffee shop on Church Street. My remote days are filled with writing, editing and new and exciting projects assigned by myself for content creation or my supervisor, Kim Jackson. This past weekend I attended the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes Event held at Pico Mountain, and a couple weekends ago I skied with a film crew! And at both events, the stoke was high and the energy was unmatched– smiles and laughter everywhere I looked and everyone bonded over one thing: skiing and snowboarding.
When I’m not found at a coffee shop or hunched over on my twin bed typing away at my laptop, I’m adventuring. Whether I’m skiing, touring backcountry, hiking, or even finding new running spots along Lake Champlain– I am always outside enjoying everything that the Green Mountain State has to offer.
However, switching my brain from “school-mode” to “creative mode” can be difficult sometimes. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays are dedicated to 18 credits of coursework, while Wednesdays and Fridays and some weekend days I’m a marketing intern. Luckily, long and scenic drives to the mountains activate my creativity, as well as my solo chairlift rides.
Sometimes– it is hard to balance. I do have days where I’m more tired than others, and my brain feels foggy. After living with PKU all my life, you’d get the hang of it. However, we all have those days where those french fries look more delicious on that day and you decide to spurge. Needless to say, the self control, discipline and independence I continuously master throughout my life has increased significantly since my youth. It does not hold me back– it empowers me. Empowers me to do more and more everyday; empowers me to conquer every single day ahead of me. No matter the amount of chaos, and no matter my schedule. As long as I drink my shake.
To learn more about the internship program at Vermont Adaptive or to apply, go to: https://www.vermontadaptive.org/internships/