As Dad was busy packing up his duffel bags in preparation for his return home, I couldn’t help but reflect on the inspiration that has led him and I to share this adventure of a lifetime. Inspiration is something that comes in many shapes and sizes, often without either person, those inspiring and those being inspired, ever realizing it. For the sake of this message, I want to focus on those who are inspiring others.
On my last day of work before I left, I had lunch with my boss, Luke, and we discussed life, as we often do. I mentioned feeling overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and the constant mention of it being “inspirational”. I really struggled with the latter because to me, I was approaching it as just another climb and I didn’t fully comprehend why everyone was making such a big deal about it. However, in the weeks leading up to my departure, I began to better understand why people might view it as “inspirational” and why it was important for me to embrace it. Attempting to climb Mount Everest or knowing someone that is attempting to do so, is not something that you hear about every day.
Based on the rarity of attempting to climb Mount Everest, it was asinine for me to treat it like just another mountain or expect others to do so. I didn’t just happen upon this opportunity, it took years of inspiration from others, big and small, to lead me to this adventure. My Mom’s perseverance throughout my childhood as she raised two children and held our family together through sheer willpower, continues to inspire me to never give up and always believe. My Dad’s transformation in my early twenties and his invitation to join him hiking through the mountains, inspired me to believe that we can always make changes in our life for the better and that we should always be searching for the next obstacle to overcome. The unwavering smiles and love that my close friend, Jeff, and his wife have for their newborn, Paxton, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and overcame numerous surgeries, inspires me to focus on my blessings, even when times are tough. These are examples of foundational inspiration, that draw a map for your life but, as with any map, there are many roads that you can take.
It is the more acute inspiration, which often goes unnoticed, that helps you decide which road to take. Little did my Tante (Aunt) Lisa know but she planted a seed when she gave me a book one Christmas, as she always does, and that book happened to be “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. Months later, I was hiking Mount Whitney with my Dad and a couple of his friends. One of those friends, Brent Cleveland, and I began discussing the book because he had been to EBC. I told him that I would love to climb Mount Everest but admitted that I felt that I was too old to pursue something of that magnitude. He looked at me and said, “That is ridiculous, you can absolutely do it.” I doubt that either my Tante Lisa or Brent ever thought that these small acts of inspiration would lead me to typing this note, as I prepare to give this mountain my all.
As I continued to hike with my Dad, I used the inspiration from my parents to seek bigger mountains and take up climbing, which is where I crossed paths with Geoff Schellens. He has become a friend and mentor to me, teaching me the skills and humility that is necessary to be successful in the mountains. He probably doesn’t realize it but his enthusiasm, experience, and most importantly, friendship, were enormous acts of inspiration that has led us to where we are today.
As you can see, it is no coincidence that am writing to you from Everest Basecamp, but rather, a particular sequence of inspirational events that has drawn my life map and led me down this road. Each of these people and many others, have inspired me to attempt something that only 4,200 people have ever accomplished since 1953, whether they knew that they were doing so or not.
Luke and I continued to talk and I admitted that I now understood the enormity of what I was about to undertake. Throughout my life, I was inspired by others and now I have the opportunity to inspire through my adventure. The first two people that came to mind were Dylan, Luke’s son, and Albert, who I mentor through the Big Brother Big Sisters Program. As children, we are often told that we can be anything that we want to be, whether it is the President or an Astronaut, but it is easy to lose these dreams because we lack the inspiration around us. Perhaps, by knowing someone that is attempting to climb Mount Everest, Dylan and Albert will understand that anything is possible and that they will be inspired to continue to dream BIG.
What I hope that you gain from this message is that each and everyone of us has the opportunity to inspire others on a daily basis. Think about that… through your acts, big or small, you are helping those around you choose the road that they will take. It’s a huge responsibility but one that can yield incredible results and change lives forever.
Never miss an opportunity to inspire.