I thought this would be a good time to finish my "Why I climb" post.
The path of my life over the past year and a half that I've been preparing to do a Summit for Someone climb almost answers the question for me: Why do I climb?
For a while it was in a classroom, then for the government, and now in the outdoors. I worked with public school students in several urban areas: The DC metro, Tampa FL, Allentown, PA... Different latitudes, same problems: Students come in and out of my class from halfway houses, homeless shelters, and rehab programs, never knowing the potential they were wasting. The work was thankless, but necessary. I slept little and worked lots, driven by the knowledge that what I was preparing for the next day had the potential to change a life. I was paid to teach science, but I also taught confidence, perspective, coping mechanisms, self esteem, and vision. I considered myself a success if my students walked away as better decision makers, with a clear vision that their future could be whatever they wanted it to be.
In 2009 I entered the "What's Your Everest?" contest sponsored by Champion Hanes Brands. In my entry I talked about my love of climbing and my chronic fear of heights. If I won I'd have the resources to travel and climb in exposed places to help me get over my fear. It wasn't just heights that held me back though. Add a fear of organized exercise, and more seriously, of failure and isolation, and you'll have a more accurate picture of where my head was.
I also said I wanted to use the money to help someone besides myself. I talked about my students and their daily struggle to just survive. I talked about how playing in the outdoors had shaped my childhood, and how every kid should get that chance. That's where Big City Mountaineers came in. If I won, the bulk of the money would be donated through a Summit for Someone climb that would give me time way up high.
Well I did. Win, that is. $10,000. Ten THOUSAND dollars. That's not the kind of thing that happens to a REAL person, it always happens to someone else. I took a screen capture the day it hit my bank account. I've never had that much "extra" cash just sitting around. The presence of that money opened up a world of possibilities to me. I was under no obligation to do what I said I'd do with it. I could go to Europe. I could buy an RV and travel, put a down payment on a house or buy clothes somewhere other than Target. I knew that wouldn't satisfy me though. The time I've been happiest are the times I've been giving, and not focused on myself. Besides, how often do you have the chance to give away $10,000? This might be my only chance.
So I gave it to the kids. MY kids. My students may not be the ones on the next BCM trip, but they might be there some day.
I am strong. I am capable. I am valuable. I am paying a freaking guide! I won't be left behind!
Since then I've done my first 14ers, hiked thousands of feet, and feel confident that this Saturday when I start my climb, I'll kick ass.
I climb for myself and for my kids. For what we are and what we have the potential to be.
**To my friends and family, who donated purely to show me moral support. Many of you have given your time and attention, listening to my mini-meltdowns and changing plans. Thank you so much for being there. With your donations I was able to go above and beyond for the Big City Mountaineers cause. They also have played a huge role in keeping me motivated and focused. I've been alone a bunch lately, but I've never felt alone. Thank you for playing a part in this big time in my life. I didn't realize how much of an impact something like a dollar donation would have. There really is something to putting your money where your mouth is. **
Any encouraging comments left below will be carried to the top, and read late at night in my tent while I'm shivering with cold. :) (Hint hint)