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What are the elements? I don't mean the chemical elements that lie on the periodic table; there are about ten dozen of those. I mean more like the natural forces that feel like elements. Water, earth, wind, fire, light, plants; stuff like that. Despite having no scientific basis, these elements feel visceral and primal in a way that few other things do.

With that said, it's natural to feel drawn to one or more of these elements. The idea of water or earth spirits is a common and evocative one, and this familiarity also extends to people. Ask yourself which element is yours, and I suspect the answer will feel surprisingly innate. For me, the answer is an instinctive as any preference. Whether you call it the sky, or the air, or the clouds; I am drawn to the wind.

It didn't take much soul-searching to realize this. Since I was young I always liked anything related to flying and heights. Watching Avatar: The Last Airbender only helped confirm this, and the Airbenders are one of my favorite fictional societies. I think there's a lot to be said about how deftly the creators tied their philosophy to their culture and to their airbending powers; so few fictional works have deep and realized belief systems for their civilizations. Anyway, that's a tangent for another day; back to airbending.

It's not only the ideological aspects of airbending that appeal to me, though they are quite fitting. Freedom, mountain peaks, detachment, cycles, spirituality; all of it makes it seem like this fictional philosophy was designed with me in mind, though perhaps that's because I was exposed to it at such a young age. More crucial, though, is actually relating to the element itself. None of that matters if you don't like the sensation of air and wind and heights.

Luckily, I really do. When I was young I would walk around with my jacket spread out on a windy day to catch more air, maybe even lean into it and trust the wind with my weight. I like tall places; more than just lacking a fear of heights I actively seek out tall buildings and precipices I can gaze down from. Mountain climbing is a pretty difficult task, but doing so always feels incredibly rewarding and not scary at all.

Even arguably the biggest downside of the wind, that it can make you feel cold, doesn't bother me at all. I don't really mind the cold, even though I do get cold easily. When the wind chill is unusually bad, it's always fun to try and sense the wind before it hits and then duck out of its path. Even then, I feel like knowing this elements affords me a connection that I otherwise wouldn't be able to use.

Moving on to the positive aspects of being a real life airbender, that's the most fun part of any elemental affinity. Someone truly connected to water might spend a lot of time doing water activities. Diving, surfing, leaning to read the waves and tides. If you love messing around with fire than you might be the one in charge of campfires and barbeques and maybe you'll even take up a hobby like welding or forging.

With the wind, there is no shortage of unique activities that involve wings or kites or sails or flying or gliding. The really amazing part is how much you end up learning about air as you learn these new skills. An old sailor doesn't just see the water as a nice backdrop as many of us might do at the beach. Each white crested wave and the rhythmic lapping of the tide both tell entire stories that most people don't pick up.

Relying on the wind teaches to similar lessons, and with enough practice can lead to quite profound insights. One cool thing is learning to pay attention to the direction of the wind - you eventually unlock an arrow in your head that always tells you where the wind is coming from and how strong it is. It's useful on cold days where you want to keep buildings in between you and the cold air, or on hot ones where you seek that breeze.

You also pay attention to the skies, because they finally have something to say. Each puffy white wisp lazily drifting tells you something about the air. About thermals and convection and weather. When you see a bird soaring by you can tell a lot about the state of the air by the way they move. That is, after you get over the jealousy of watching them fly with such freedom. Watching birds fly high is one of my favorite things, and I don't know if I'll ever get used to it.

I guess I'm lucky that I happen to be doing multiple wind/airbending type activities at the same time: paragliding and sailing. Both use the wind in different ways, but there is only one wind and so you end up learning a lot about it either way. It's so cool to sometimes learn the same lessons from different perspectives; seeing the same topic through somebody else's eyes.

I suppose there's some amount of risk and fear in flying, but I really do trust that if I respect the power of the wind then it too will be kind to me. And when I'm on the water I am grateful to the wind for the power it provides even to us humble land dwellers. Did you know that a sail on a sailboat works like an airfoil, to generate 'lift', the same way that an inflatable paragliding wing or a fixed wing on an airplace does?

I guess one more cool thing worth mentioning is how you meet so many similar people when doing activities like this. I really do think that the airbender attitude is a surprisingly common archetype, and you know it when you meet others who feel the same call as you. It's more than just liking the wind; it's a way of thinking and a passion for the same kinds of ideas. It almost makes me wonder what other kind of elemental archetypes are out there, because surely they must exist.