McNeil is a snowboard instructor and Northern Arizona University graduate with an impressive achievement on the slopes.
Who are you?
"I'm McNeil Leo Hamonangan Hodges."
How would you describe yourself to someone?
"I'm a 'TCK' or 'Third Culture Kid' meaning that I grew up bouncing back and fourth between two or more cultures, in my case California and Indonesia. TCK's are usually a little weird/different. Since age 11 my primary cultural influence has been from the U.S. I got out of high school at 16 and started working and going to community college. Right when I turned 18 I got certified as an EMT in California and started working part time as a FF/EMT for the Porterville City Fire Department. When I turned 20 I moved to flagstaff to complete my B.S. at NAU. The year I turned 21 my girlfriend at the time taught me how to do toe side on a snowboard. Since then, chasing winter has become a driving force in my life."
You recently completed 120 consecutive days of snowboarding. What was your inspiration behind achieving that goal?
"This was my first year working at the Arizona Snowbowl. My mentor, Alex Davenport, heard that I was trying to ride every day of the season. His words to me were 'talk to me when you hit 120'. That was the moment that my goal was set in stone."
What were some of the trials you faced during that experience?
"I encountered some obstacles during my 120 days of consecutive riding. One big obstacle was taking my Wilderness First Responder course through NOLS. This course was 9 consecutive days and ran
Were there any days you doubted to complete your goal?
"While I was sitting in the ER having my nose re-set and my face stitched up, I was a little worried about riding the next day. Earlier that day I had slammed my face into a tree in turkey gulley. I broke my nose, bit through my bottom lip in 2 places, and rattled my head pretty good even though I was wearing a helmet. I managed to get on the mountain the next day. Then the following three days I had my Level 1 professional snowboarding instructor exam. The swollen face definitely put a damper on my mood, but with the support of my friends and co-workers and a really talented Rocky Mountain Trainer, Tim Kinney, I managed to make it through all three days and pass the exams."
What keeps you positive during the days that seemed harder than others?
"Just knowing how lucky I am to be doing what I do. Spending 5 years of my childhood in a third world country was life changing and left me with a pretty unique world view. Speeding down the mountain with the wind battering my swollen face, the most dominant feeling that embodied me was gratitude. I am so grateful for the life I live and the opportunities that I have to do the crazy outlandish things that I get myself into."
In a more broad sense, what does positivity look like to you?
"An appreciation for pain, knowing that the good times wouldn't exist without the bad times, the sweet without the bitter. There is something to smile about with every hardship, a lesson to learn, a realization to encounter. It is essential in life to try to enjoy the present. Most people don't realize that they're living the good ol' days until the days are no longer so good. A truly positive person will appreciate the good times and smile through the hard times, knowing there is more good to come."
How do you practice living positive on a day to day basis?
"I let my mind go in the mornings. I close my eyes and let whatever thoughts enter my consciousness that choose to. I acknowledge them and then I let them go. I find that this leaves a mental palette ready to absorb the stimulus of the world with a childlike awe and wonderment that leaves everything feeling bright and shiny."
If you could go back and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
"Love yourself, stupid.
P.S. You're not stupid."
What makes you happy?
"On a really primal level.. When I yawn and then the people around me yawn as a consequence of my original yawn... that makes me happy."
Is there any additional message you'd like to share?
"World peace starts with going home and loving your family"
- Mama T
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