In 23 days I will be taking my AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Exam through Fox Mountain Guides. It's been an interesting ride to get to this point. Here I am, almost 30 years old with a BA and a Masters under my belt, but instead of working in the fields of my education I am trying to be a rock climbing instructor. Did I mention that I'm almost 30?? Seriously, who starts a climbing career in their 30's??
This seems a little crazy at first
glance. Honestly, it even seems crazy after a couple of glances. So
I'd like to share with you the journey I've been on for the past two
years. A lot has happened in that time, and that's what led me to be
The first thing you need to know is
that in most of my eleven year climbing history, I've been the
“second” always following and never leading. I've been the
girlfriend of the real climber, or the wife who is working full-time
and can really only get outside on the occasional weekend at best –
the fair weather weekend warrior. Climbing has always taken a
backseat to other priorities in my life.
All of that changed about two years
ago, when I was faced with a choice between the safe and stable
future of 'grown-up jobs' for my husband and I, or the risky future
of adventure. Derek and I had been working on our graduate degrees in
Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was working full-time and completing my
coursework by night. Derek had been trying to convince me that we
should do a road trip after graduation, before settling into our
'grown-up' lives. I was not on board.
A road trip? Seriously? We needed to
be saving up money for a house with a garden so we could have a home
and make beautiful babies. I wanted to be like all of my wonderfully
obnoxious friends, posting 50 pictures a day on Facebook of my
drooling, pooping infants and forcing everyone to comment on how my
babies were the cutest, because Derek's and my babies would be the
As I am a few years older than Derek, my biological clock was
and is ticking a bit louder than his.
Then, something unforeseen happened.
Something I never could have planned for. On April 27, 2011 a massive
super cell of tornadoes swept through the Southeast, destroying
entire towns and devastating the region. Our town, Tuscaloosa was
While Derek and I huddled together in our bathroom, we
felt the force of the tornado that demolished our apartment complex.
We heard the screaming of wrought iron as it was ripped from the
building, felt the blunt impact of cinder-blocks hitting our walls,
and waited for the safety of our home to be blown away from us.
While we waited in total darkness, I
believed we were about to die. It didn't matter what I had planned to
do with my life anymore. My time was up, and all that mattered was
what had already been done. And I had done nothing in my life.
Nothing worth anything. Nothing but planning for a future that hadn't
come yet. At least, that's what it felt like in the moment.
When the wind suddenly died down, I
waited in disbelief. I sent up a shaky Hail Mary in case it wasn't
over yet. It wasn't over, but that tornado had moved on at
least. That tornado continued across Alabama and into Georgia,
almost making it to Tennessee before it finally sputtered out. (See that tornado as it swirls over our home here or read my older posts about it here)
Back in Tuscaloosa, Derek and I
emerged from our bathroom to find our unit relatively unscathed. The
walls were dented from the impact of debris hitting them at over 200
miles an hour. The ceiling was the only thing protecting us from the
rain above, as our roof had been ripped off. Surprisingly, all of our
windows were intact, giving me the mistaken belief that everything
was actually “okay.”
A quick look out of our front window
crushed that belief without mercy. Our entire apartment complex, the
small houses in our neighborhood, the ancient trees in the courtyard,
every single thing was destroyed. All that remained were massive
piles of rubble and people screaming under a low gray sky. Derek and
I had been at the very edge of the tornado's wall, and we could see
across the entire mile width of its wake. My reality permanently
shifted when I saw the impact of the tornado's destruction.
That day, and everything that happened
during and after, made my decision for me. I still want to be a mom.
I still make plans for the future. But I realize now that I can make
all the plans in the world, and then easily die before any of those
plans came to fruition. Maybe that mindset is a bit extreme, but I do
not want to sacrifice my present for a future that may never happen.
And the next time I face death, I do not want to look back on my life
and see nothing worth anything.
Later, when Derek and I settled back
into a routine of school and work, we talked about the road trip
again. This time, I said yes. It was the first step in my journey to
becoming a rock climber. Not a rock climber's girlfriend or a rock
climber's wife. A real rock climber. I had no idea how huge of an
impact that trip would have on my life. But I did know that it would
be an adventure.
This story to be continued... here!