Last Sunday, we climbed to the top. I’m not going to say that it was easy. I’m not sure that I want to say that it was fun. I climbed the stairs with three old friends and one new one. Towards the end, they literally held my hands and helped me up the stairs. They stayed positive and friendly through 66 flights of stairs. They cheered me up 1215 steps. They took breaks with me when I couldn’t catch my breath. They smiled the entire way. They made it happen. The climb was the win I’ve so desperately been needing.
I learned two life lessons from this experience: one that I was supposed to already know but didn’t until now and one that I keep forgetting but life keeps placing awesome people in my life to remind me.
During the two weeks before the climb, I was feeling really low about who hadn’t donated or volunteered to climb. I had expectations that friends that I had had forever, people that I talk to all the time, would be the ones to step up and make it happen. And instead, friends that I hadn’t spoken to in months, in some cases years, were stepping up the plate. People that I had only heard of before were donating money and leaving nice notes. People that I had only “met” on the internet were coming to climb stairs with me in real life. And despite how amazing that sounds (and feels to type) for weeks I was stuck feeling sad about who wasn’t giving. To be honest, it still hurts a bit. But it was wrong of me to let a little bit of negativity outshine all the love and support that was being showered on me. It’s embarrassing to think about it now. It’s very easy to focus on the negative and I’m thankful for my patient friends who allowed me to vent, offered some solutions, but ultimately told me to snap out of it and to not let this ruin an incredible opportunity. You can’t let negativity suck all the shine of awesome experiences.
The other lesson is so simple, it’s funny. It’s that you get what you ask for. In the beginning I was hoping just to raise the $250 necessary to be eligible to climb. But in the end, I raised over $2000. I made a cowl for my brother for Christmas and people said they wanted one too. I decided to use the proceeds from them to donate to the climb, I raised over $50 in proceeds to donate to. I’ve never liked asking for help. I dreaded asking for donations. And while I can’t say that I love it or even like it, I’m humbled to know that if I just ask for it, people will be there to give it. And that feels pretty good.
The preparation for climb had been such a difference experience than I was expecting. Initially, I didn’t have much of a reaction to the climb. It was something I was going to do, and it involved me doing something I really didn’t want to do. I felt like jerk emailing everyone I knew to ask for money. But I’ve been forcing myself to do things that scared me, so I looked at fundraising as an opportunity to work through my fear – to do something even though it scared me. And so I did it.
Then there was the climb itself. Although I’m not in the best shape of my life, I was pretty confident I would get to the top. I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take, but I knew I could get up there. It was only in talking to people who weren’t doing the climb, that I started to doubt myself. People wanted to calculate how long it would take. In my practice runs, I was doing 40 flights in 20 minutes. But somehow, in these talks with other people, I was convinced that it would take me over an hour to do 66 flights. I began to panic. What if I couldn’t make it to the top? (Self-doubt is so lame.) But as usual my friends talked me down. My friends helped me up too. We did all 66 flights in 23 minutes. Anna thought we probably could have gone faster. Crazy, huh? In the end, my breathing was the biggest problems. My legs could have easily done the climb faster, but I just could not catch my breath.
When we finally got to the top, I thought I might cry. My emotions surprised me. I did something very difficult. I did it with friends. I finished something. As I said earlier, the week before the climb was a disaster. A comedy of errors. There were lots of tears. I remember crying over drinks that I just needed one win. Just one victory to show me that it was going to be ok. I got that on the top of the rock. I got my first step back on track.
I originally wrote this post over a month ago, but I figured since so many people were asking for the entire story behind my last post that I’d post it here:
Before I turned 30, I was incredibly nervous. I was going to be 30 but I wasn’t where I thought I would be. 30 felt really old and I still felt really young. I was worried.
For my 30th birthday, I copied my 13th birthday. For that birthday, my mother invited all her friends over and we talked about what it meant to be a woman. I remember feeling so loved and so empowered and that’s exactly how I wanted to feel on my 30th birthday. So I invited my closest friends and a bunch of my mother’s friends. I asked everyone to be prepared to say a few words about what it meant to be a woman to them and/or their advice on how to live a good life. The party was awesome and exactly what I wanted. One of my most awesome and closest friends even flew in from Oregon. I rekindled some friendships that were dwindling. I got to spend time with some of the most important people in my life. I got awesome advice – mostly to live life on my terms, live without regret and to stop waiting for whatever I’m waiting to to start living.
I left my party feeling like my life was about to begin and that I was so blessed.
And then I turned 30.
It started simply enough: my left eye was acting funny. It didn’t hurt or anything, but it was funky to look through that one eye. Initially, I thought there was something in there. Consequently, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom playing with my eye trying to see what was going on. I took an L for the day and was crazy unproductive because reading was a total pain at this point. The next morning I woke up and my eyesight was a little worse. So I spent the morning trying to figure out who to go to since of course I don’t have a ophthalmologist. So I finally get someone and they say I need a referral from school and so begins my day. I got to work (late) and explained to my boss that eye was being a total pain and that I’d prob need to leave early to get to a doctor. She was super cool about and so I spent the rest of the day trying to get appointments and referrals. This was when I learned exactly how much my school’s health insurance sucks. Anyway, fast forward to 4 pm when I find a doctor who actually takes my health insurance and she makes me take a million different eye tests. This is when I started getting scared. Three hours later, the doctors are whispering in a different language, they keep asking if my eye hurts and then tell me I need to get an MRI soon. As in within the next 48 hours. And said something was wrong with my optic nerve. Then they sent me on my way home.
Of course I went drinking instead.
Next day was spent trying to get the damn referrals I needed to get the MRI.
The day after that I met with the big daddy eye doctor who did a preliminary check and guessed that my eye was acting funky because of an old injury. I couldn’t really remember any serious injuries other than my boo dropping his stupid phone on my eye a month earlier but I felt relieved that this injury was starting to make sense. He sent me to get more tests and then to get the MRI and blood work.
Hours and hours later we’re both looking at my MRIs and I’m smiling to myself because I’m not seeing any tumors or anything I think is crazy. (Yes, I do think I can read MRIs because I watch a lot of Grey’s Anatomy.) There is a history of cancer on both sides of my family, so I was prepared for that to be the issue here. I’ve kind of been waiting on a cancer diagnosis for most of my life since I know those odds aren’t in my favor.
What I wasn’t prepared for was my doctor thinking that I have multiple sclerosis. I wasn’t even sure what it was until he started explaining. It’s an autoimmune disease where your body attacks the mylein sheaths that protect your nerves. So that was what was happening with my eye. He said he thought it was just a regular optic neuritis until he saw two small legions on my brain. Yup. Then the rest kind of fades to black. I remember bits and pieces “50/50,” “I know this is hard because you came in here thinking you’re healthy” “home nurse” “iv” “steroids” “another specialist” “bring someone with you to our next appointment” and “come back in two weeks.”
In a daze, I left the office. I called my mom. I cried the entire subway ride home. I drank two vanilla cokes since they told me not to drink alcohol because of the steroids. My friends came over. It was insanely awkward and sad. My mom came. It lightened up a little. The drugs came. It got scary again. The nurse came, it got scarier. The catheter went it, it got gross. Chris came and I smiled. The nurse left, and then Chris left and then it was just me and my mom.
And for the next four days, it was me and my mom and my catheter. I only went out once during those 4 days and randomly ran into friends. The catheter, while wrapped up, freaked them out. I went back home and stayed in the house. The catheter came out. There was blood everywhere. I worried if this was going to become a regular occurrence in my life. This can’t be my life.
This week I see a MS specialist and get his opinion on my MRIs. I also go back to my first doctor to get the results of my blood work. I’m scared. This week I find out if I have a slightly annoying autoimmune malfunction where my eye is gonna get cute every now and then or if I have a chronic disease that might lower my life expectancy to just 30 years. [spoiler: it was MS, and that life expectancy estimation is off (too low) according to newer books I'm reading. phew.]
There’s nothing like a situation like this to kick your ass hard enough that it forces you actually live. Before I turned 30, my biggest goal was to pay off my loans within the next 30 years. After I turned 30, my biggest goal is to live the most incredible life I can within the next 30 years. Let’s see what kind of shenanigans I can get myself into now.