I’d collapsed in my tent. Frozen. Sweating. Realizing that it’s possible to be both at once. After an epic 13-hour summit day on the Emmons Glacier route on Mt. Rainier, I’d survived roped-up mishaps, performed a self-arrest to avoid plummeting into a cravasse, raced a storm to the summit, and descended in whiteout conditions. It should have been a 10-hour day. It wasn’t. But I was happy. I was also quite happy that I had remembered to dry my sweaty sports bra in my sleeping bag the night prior. You only forget your sports bra on top of your tent once in sub-zero conditions (see pic). This was August of 2007. And this view and this one— were worth it all.
A year later, I didn’t collapse. Rather, I stood there on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro thinking (once again), “I’m happy.” For five days, we’d walked. Scrambled. Kicked rocks out of our boots. Squat-peed in makeshift sheds. At midnight on the fifth day, we departed for the summit. The temperature? Estimated at -30F. Roughly 8 or 9 hours later, we arrived at 19,340 feet above sea level, having ascended roughly 4,000 feet that morning alone. We had another 7,000 to descend that day back to low camp. But on that summit, I was happy. I’d flown halfway across the world and placed myself in the presence of a view like no other. We won’t mention the girl who was thrown into our climbing group at the last minute who decided to “leave a trace” on the summit. Or maybe I will. This was September of 2008.
All of that — it really wasn’t so long ago.
Neither were the pool parties. New puppies. Leaving a six-figure job to take up with a low-five figure one that fed my soul. Canyoneering trips through Zion. Love found. Climbing days with friends. Love ripped from my hands. Life-changing moves to multiple states until I found the state I love calling home. A life shattered. A life rediscovered. The promise to never leave that life behind again. Bicycles (holy shit, did I discover bicycles). Dirt. Dirt and bicycles.
And all of that? I got it done in less than 10 years. More like six or seven.
As the calendar gets ready to flip into yet another year, I’m walking towards January 1 with my 30s completely in my rear view. It wasn’t so long ago (18 days, in fact) that I was still in my 30s.
What were you doing not so long ago? Whatever it was, you don’t have to leave it behind. It’s right there waiting. And what I’ve found this week, is that it’s all right there asking to be recognized…appreciated…acknowledged.
After spending nearly two years in a chasm, I’m in a place where I can say that I love my life. My friends. My business. I love how my weekends are filled with people instead of computer screens and excuses like “I have to work.” I love that I can fuck off out of town, near or far with assorted combinations of gear and be on snow, dirt, or asphalt (sometimes all three) and have a blast no matter the terrain.
And I think what I really love the most — which is a more recent event than anything over the past seven-odd years — is that I love myself. On top of it, I like myself. And I really fucking like the people in my life. (Sidebar: that’s one of those sentences where a simple word switcharoo changes the meaning entirely). I adore the people who surround me and support me every day so I can do what it is that I love. Like y’all.
It wasn’t so long ago that RedheadWriting didn’t exist. Crazy for me to think of, really — my life without the one piece that’s allowed me to see so many dreams come true.
So this weekend, as you do whatever it is that you’re going to do to welcome in the New Year, maybe you’ll think about things that weren’t so long ago. Then maybe you’ll put them together with the things that are for you today — those shiny, precious, smile-inducing, nuggets of life. Just fill up the pockets of your down coat with them, say to hell with the gloves, shove your hands in deep, and go wandering around town with an ear-to-ear grin on your face as you think of the not-so-long-agos.
They’re never out of reach, the not-so-long-agos. And they’re probably the things that got you to the things you love so much right now — your present and your future.
PS: If you’re so inclined, here are some pictures of my not-so-long-agos. They make me smile. Maybe they’ll make y’all smile, too.