This is just going into “Dear Diary” mode, capturing a couple moments for me to think about later vs. me fishing for compliments or anything, so I’m turning off comments.
Two funny things happened this last week.
1) I was catching up with an old friend. She actually IS a writer, has the MFA and stress to prove it. We were talking about school and she asked me just when the heck was I going to finish up my MBA, it’s been a work in progress forever. I mentioned the problems I have writing these days, and how it’s not just school, it’s work documentation, the blog, everything. And she just said “But you’re a writer. How is that even possible?” I chose to not dwell on that comment (because I’m cool like that) because she said it so matter-of-factly and it wasn’t the point of the conversation but inside a tiny part of me did a happy dance. Validation! Woo-hoo!
My parents are great people. I owe them so much, and can’t begin to fathom how lucky I had it growing up. But like everyone, they make mistakes. They drove us to excel growing up, but sometimes the nagging to do better far outweighed the moments of praise. It’s funny, even though you recognize the pathology it doesn’t necessarily cure the disease. A professional mentor recently said something so nice to me the other day that I just lapped it up. Was so touched by it that I forwarded it to my sister, who was touched by it on my behalf. “Gee, if only Dad…” comments were made. So those little pats on the head and “Atta-boy” sounds mean a lot, and sometimes I probably read too much into things, searching for them.
But the matter of fact way in which the words were said stuck with me for a bit. I’d had conversations with this person about pursuing an MFA instead of an MBA way back when, and the discussion of writing vs. some other type of visual arts was a part of that. They’ve pushed me to enter a writing contest or two geared towards veterans. But I still think of HER as a writer and myself as a guy who spews stuff out when it is bouncing around in my head too much. All the same, I liked it!
2) I was hiking this weekend, a peak that belongs to a group we here in Colorado call 14ers because they’re over 14000′ tall. I was with a group and, as usual, was tail-end Charlie at the end. It was a steady incline that I’d call something more than “gradual” for hours. Yes, I realize that’s hardly exact but I didn’t measure the grade and wouldn’t want to guess now. But for the final 1500′ it became very steep. Not rock-climbing, near-vertical steep, but the trail consisted of rock steps in several areas and there were points close to the top where novice hikers were using both their hands and feet when coming down.
One of the people I hike with regularly is just a trooper. She just puts her head down, doesn’t say much and just maintains a steady pace until she gets where she’s going. She doesn’t typically stop to rest for herself, she does it when someone else (usually me) is gasping for a breath. After a couple years of hiking together, we’ve finally reached an agreement. Because weather can be bad in the afternoons here, if I’m drag-assing and we’re close to the top but it looks like storms on the horizon, she has my full blessing to charge on and leave me behind. I don’t want to be the reason she doesn’t summit. It’s so frustrating to camp, wake up insanely early, spend hours trudging up some mountain and then have to turn around with the end in sight because storms are coming in and you’re above tree-line. It’s even more frustrating when you know you could’ve made it if you were on your own but someone was slowing you down. Doesn’t matter how close of friends you are, for a split second you’re going to be tempted to give them a little push and watch them roll down a hill.
We got to about 12000′ and looked out and saw clouds kicking in and she just kept going. I lost sight of her quickly, mainly because I was leaning on my poles, gasping for a breath. It felt like I was on the verge of a black-out for the entire last hour or so of the climb. Tunnel vision and rushing in ears. I was getting supremely frustrated that the rest of my group was making it look so easy. We were hiking with a couple and they were a good five minutes ahead of me, I could see them, but just as I’d start to catch up, they’d take off again, sometimes running, sometimes just moving quickly with a little spurt. Insult to injury when I saw the male jumping from stone to stone, looking like he was laughing and full of energy.
I finally made it to the false summit, about 100 yards from the real thing. I’d seen my friend sitting in the shelter of a rock for the last 150 yards or so and when I finally got to her she just got a huge smile and said “Dude, you are seriously my hero for being here right now.” Which mostly made me feel stupid and patronized. “What are you talking about, you’ve been up here for what, an hour now?” She said she’d only been there about ten minutes longer than the couple, who I’d almost caught up with. Again, I let it slide, but on the way down she mentioned that she’d been tempted to turn around on the way up without making it to the top. I have NEVER heard her mention quitting. Who was this person? Anyways, it still seems like an odd compliment, but I’ll take it.