Another pic Matt snapped at the summit.
It’s been over a month and I can’t stop thinking about the experience. I failed to reach the top, but overall I see the trip as a success. I listened to my body—something I try to teach people to do every day. Clearly, I wasn’t thrilled about what my body was telling me, but I listened. I didn’t vomit. Pretty much anytime in life you don’t vomit, it’s a success. I reached over 17,000-feet. That’s the highest I’ve ever been by about 3,000-feet. I cried in front of people. I’m not so good with the feels when other humans are around, so I’m chalking this up as a success too.
Most importantly what I learned from this trip is that I have this massive group of family, friends and clients who I am pretty sure could have cared less if I got to the top of that mountain or not. Sure, they knew I wanted to get there so they wanted it for me, but they seem genuinely interested in the story, the adventure, the ups and the downs. It is very empowering to learn you have a group of supporters who think you are pretty okay even when you fail, but you have to fail to really learn that. In fact, that has been one of the best lessons from this failure.
They seemed impressed that I tried. The effort I put in, even if I didn’t succeed, mattered more than the end goal. After turning back, there were moments in Africa where I would cover my face with my hands in disgrace and tell Matt, “Uhh, I have to go home and tell people I didn’t do it. They are going to know I couldn’t make it.” I know the good people in my life and they deserve more credit than that. It was my own issue. No one I interact with was going to make me feel bad for not making it; in fact everyone actually went a step further and made me feel good about not making it.
When I express the disappointment, sadness, and frustration people seem to feel bad for me. But here’s the thing. It’s okay that I’m upset I didn’t make it to the top. Even if I did a good job overall, it’s a real bummer. Still, even in that disappointment, I recognize that I gained so much from the adventure. There was never a moment that I wasn’t enthralled by the view of the top. Not one. We gazed upon it for seven days and it never grew old. It’s a spectacular mountain. In my worst moments on the mountain, I knew I was surrounded by a remarkable part of the world. When I turned back and saw the orange sunrise silhouetting the other peaks I was in awe, and need to sit down. The waterfalls and vegetation that existed at 15,000-feet baffled me. The sun warmed me, radiating in and making me grateful.
Our fellow hikers were the best people for me to hike with. It’s possible we’ll never interact again, but we are bonded, and I’m appreciative of that bond I developed with each one of them. The guides, porters and environment humbled me at almost every interaction and it’s good to feel humbled now and again.