As some of you may know, I hiked Mt. Whitney this past August with a group of my family and friends. It was easily one of the most gratifying and inspiring experiences I’ve ever had. I honestly did not believe it was anything I could ever do. My dad had run the idea by my sister and I a few times the year before, saying that it would be an unforgettable experience, but I always half listened, assuming I couldn’t do it and that instead I’d take the role of cheerleader when my sister started training. Even when my dad secured a number of permits—including one for me—I still wasn’t convinced he’d find me on the trail.
To this day, I can’t specifically pinpoint what made me change me mind. I’d had an on again-off again relationship with exercise for my entire life, but this was something else entirely. My family had recently adopted what we called, “Swoll Sundays,” which were sunset hikes at the end of each week. One Sunday, as we looked out at the valley from atop Rocky Peak, I decided I would “give Whitney a try.” I figured I probably wouldn’t make it, but if I tried, no one could give me any grief.
Looking back at the training now, I owe a lot of my success to the people that hiked with me, especially my dad and our friend Tom. The first time we hiked Mt. Baldy—arguably the hardest training hike we did—I found my pace slowing down exponentially at a certain set of switchbacks and I could sense Tom slowing down behind me.
“I’m sorry Tom, you can pass me.”
“Hey, don’t let me pressure you, we all go at our own pace. Don’t let anyone dictate yours.”
He may not know it, but that stuck with me for the entirety of the hike and still resonates with me in my everyday life. It made me realize that even if I’m going slower than the others, I’m still moving, and that alone is something to be proud of.
Perhaps the most beneficial thing I learned throughout my entire Whitney experience was the ability to believe in myself. By the time I reached the top of that mountain I was confident in every step I was taking. I wasn’t only sure that I could reach the top, but I was sure that if I put in my whole heart, I could do anything.
A few weeks after we got home from Mt. Whitney, me, my sister Natalee, and our friend Kristine, decided to go get tattoos to commemorate our experience. We had been talking about it for the entire summer, trying to figure out what would sum it up perfectly, but none of us had decided on a design until we finished the hike and were living off of the joy of the accomplishment.
When we walked into the tattoo parlor, Natalee and Kristine both asked for the face of the mountain to be tattooed to their heels; they brought in souvenir T-shirts we bought, as a reference for the artist. Natalee went first and it came out absolutely amazing. Seeing it ingrained on her skin gave me goosebumps; it made me relive every moment we spent on that mountain, and reminded me of the hours I spent at trail camp looking up at the summit, wondering if I really had it in me to reach it.
I went last between the three of us, a completely different design in mind. The artist looked at me, “You want the same thing, right?” I shook my head and voiced my idea.
The artist didn’t ask my intent behind the two shapes, he simply nodded and got to work.
Nearly 4 months later, there are still only a handful of people that know I even have a tattoo, and even fewer know the meaning behind it:
The triangle, represents a mountain. When I first thought of the design, the mountain was representative of the one I was scheduled to climb. But after I finished the hike, I had a hunger to do more, accomplish more, be more, so when I saw the three lines come into place, they still represented a mountain, but one much more metaphorical. Now it is a reminder that any “mountain” I face in my life is climbable and beatable. It’s a reminder to keep going, even when I don’t think I can.
The heart represents what I have. Similar to a heart beat, we all have things in our lives that keep us going. Whether it’s an incredibly supportive family, a wonderful group of friends, or a self-sustained motivation to keep going. At the end of my hike, I was incredibly overwhelmed to find that I’ve been blessed with all three. The heart represents the intangible, the things I will have even when my hands are empty and my bank account is absent.
Growing up I never thought I would get a tattoo; the idea of something I might regret later being so permanent, scared the crap out of me. But now, when I look down at my wrist, I do nothing but smile. It is a constant reminder of everything I have and everything I can do, and if I keep those two things at the forefront of my focus, I feel I have no choice but to live a happy, successful life.