Like most challenges in life, our mental capacity is what holds us back from moving forward, not our physical ability. Self doubt, pride, fear, and failure all cause us to take a step back, slow down, and live life more safely. When we do this we miss out on so much of what we as human beings are capable of.
Rock climbing to me is a very physical way to change my mindset. Every route I climb, whether completed or not, has something to teach me. I am proving to myself what I can do.
Early last year I experienced something that sped up that learning process for me. I was bouldering and had just completed a route when I dropped about 25 feet, intending to meet the crash pad beneath me. Instead, my foot caught on a ledge and the rest of my body kept going. My foot was severed from my body. With adrenaline already pumping, I was able to roll over, prop my leg upward to help with the bleeding, and yell for a buddy to go call 911.
I remember refusing to cry until I noticed the paramedics start to cut into my brand new climbing shoes in order to free my lifeless foot. A careful surgeon was reattaching nerves and veins, placing fake ligaments, and reconnecting muscle within the hour.
I was miserable at first, letting myself think that everything was ruined and I would never be the same again. Friends and family were there to help but I was too upset to ask. Being in a wheelchair in snow-covered Idaho meant that I couldn’t leave my apartment.
Then I changed my mindset. I was soon sledding down icy hills as friends pushed me home from campus.
Four months later, my surgeon freed my foot from its cast and aggressively shoved my lump of a foot back and forth. I have never felt so much pain, or anger for one person. Could he not have just been gentle? He told me later that he had acted this way to show me what my foot was capable of -that I shouldn’t baby it or be afraid to push myself even when it hurts.
So for the second time, I changed my mindset. I was walking again a week later, running after a month, and climbing again the next. I never did physical therapy because walking, running, yoga, hiking, swimming, and slack lining were enough.
I had to relearn everything and continuously convince myself not to feel upset or discouraged, or even jealous of others who weren’t struggling at all. Every time I would discover something that I could no longer do, like point my toes in ballet or heel hook when climbing, I would do it over and over again until I could.
Now I’m here, in Hawaii, because I want to keep pushing myself. Right now I’m learning to freedive and surf. I’ve fallen on coral, and had the shocking experience of being tossed by waves until I’ve eaten half the ocean and my ears are buzzing. However much that sucks, the accomplishment is learning to take it in and then try again.
Here at CLIMB Works, our motto is “Always C.L.I.M.B.”: Challenge, Learn, Inspire, Master, and Believe. This to me embodies the reason I am here in Hawaii and the reason that I climb. Whatever adventures I am pursuing in life, I will be challenging myself, learning something new, looking for inspiration, mastering skills, and believing in my abilities
I’m so grateful for my broken foot, for the ways that the experience changed my mindset, and the jagged scar that serves as a reminder to Always CLIMB.