Changes in Latitude

I’m planning some extensive travel overseas in the coming year so I’ve sort of been forced to start acquiring a few visas. To get visas into certain countries you’re required to possess a passport that doesn’t expire within six months of your travel date. Since my current passport expires in 2011 and falls within those restrictions, that means I have to renew it.

I loathe the thought of “retiring” my old passport. It has lots of stamps from all over the world and as cheesy at it sounds, I find it comforting sometimes to look back through the pages and think about all the places I’ve been and all the memories associated with them. I know getting a shiny new passport that’s devoid of all the wrinkled pages from being crammed in a backpack for weeks on end doesn’t diminish the memories, but I still like the nostalgia and sentimental value of the old one.

I realize if I want to continue to travel and change my my life’s latitude going forward, I need to accept the change. Sometimes accepting change means letting go of the past (though not forgetting!) and moving into a new chapter of life’s journey.

Accepting that I need to get a new passport is not all that hard in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes viewing “life” that way is easier said than done. This year has seen me grappling with a ton of changes…some changes were good, others changes not so easy to digest. I’ve never been so aware that life is a series of cycles, an ebb and flow of events and emotions that shape who we are, than I am today.

Attending the First Descent camp (a camp for young adults with cancer) last spring introduced me to thirteen of the most amazing and inspirational people I’ve ever met. After only one week together I now consider them some of my closest friends and even more importantly, my family.

Faced with unimaginable fear and unknown futures, they chose to turn the difficult cards they’d been dealt into a winning hand. I guess you could say they turned lemons into lemonade (thanks for that analogy April! ). Not only did I see that their winning hand could apply to the present situation, but the hand was even more powerful when applied to the future. Although the experience of being at the camp was nothing short of life changing, I still struggled to understand just what lessons I would eventually take away.

Later in the year I also reconnected with a friend who I’d sort of lost touch with for the last few years. What happened while catching up with this friend was that the lessons I was trying to reconcile from the First Descents camp became crystal clear. This friend truly “gets” life and lives it accordingly. Simple yet dynamic. Basic yet completely full. She basically took all those pieces of the puzzle I’d been trying to put together since the FD camp and showed me the solution. I can’t thank “MM” enough for being the amazing friend she is.

I am not one to take life for granted for one second and I try to live every day to the fullest. However, like everyone else, we get into a comfort zone and things just click along and all the dreams you have are just matter-of-fact. Well, I was cruising along just fine with my new understanding of life and then came a seismic shift that would completely shatter me.

This past November, one of my closest friends was killed in an ice climbing accident here in Colorado. Just a couple of weeks before the accident I had paced him for the last 50 miles of his first 100-miler. As we ran throughout the night we talked nonstop about a ton of future plans and how we needed to live every day to the fullest. We had even started making plans that night for him to join me in the Himalaya next year. Then, just like that, that lifetime of plans that Chris, Jon and I had of climbing and adventuring together all over the world was gone. It was such a crushing emotional blow that I was completely lost. I didn’t have a clue how to start moving forward again, none.

As I struggled to pick up the pieces, I realized one day while I was out running that all the people I’d met at the FD camp and especially my friend who I’d reconnected with had actually given me the exact answer I was looking for. The answer was to not forget the issue at hand or try to change the past, but to accept the facts as they were and take that energy and make something positive with it as I move forward.

Ultimately I am doing that, but it’s not easy. I still have those moments where I’m consumed with mind numbing sadness, sometimes completely out of the blue. Regardless, I know that I need to take the amazing energy that Chris was kind enough to share with me and spin it into something incredible. Not necessarily into anything tangible per se, but more so to take his spirit for adventure and his zest for living life to the fullest and pay it forward every chance I get…with every person I meet. Witnessing Chris’s amazing spirit in everything we did together helped shape who I am today and it would be a disservice to his memory to let that fade.

It’s now been a month since Chris’s accident and I am once again climbing a little, running hard again, planning for travels abroad and following through on my vow from our night of running to learn to tele (telemark ski). Seeing so clearly that life is short, both through my own experiences as well as through those of my friends has truly given me new eyes and a rejuvenated desire to live simply and to live to the absolutely fullest.

So it seems that not only has my passport been sent off for renewal, but my entire vision and understanding of what is important in life has been sent off for renewal. I now have a clear passport to life and it’s up to me to do with it what I want. I can leave it in the drawer and never use it, or I can cram it into my backpack and strike out on new adventures. I think you know which one I’m going to choose.

The experiences of this year have been devastating at times, but also more rewarding than I ever imagined. I’ve made some of the most amazing new friends and reconnected with old friends who I can’t even begin to thank for what they bring to my life. I can only trust that all these changes in life’s latitudes will not only make me a better person, but also a better friend, husband and father.

Paddle far. Climb high. Run long. Ski hard. Live big.


5 responses to “Changes in Latitude

  1. Aww, Bear, you are SO awesome and I LOVE your blog!! Thank you for the shout out and rest assured, I consider YOU family too. Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow, my friend. (Helen Keller)

  2. This is a beautiful entry. Thank you for sharing. I think everyone has a story about their passport … mine isn’t as romantic. But, that little document certainly represents life’s “adventures” in more ways than one.
    Was it ‘keep on rolling’ or ‘keep on trucking’ that Chris reiterated during his run? Another great moniker to live by.

    • It was “Keep on rollin'”. That comment has been stuck in head constantly. It’s what I need to do and ironically it was Chris who threw it out there! Miss you Karli. Hopefully we’ll get out to L.A. sooner rather than later!

  3. Go bear……fill up that new passport…….


  4. A great analogy. I think I need to renew my passport as well, metaphorically at least.

    If you need any suggested destinations to help fill that passport just drop me a line. I hear Romania is quite nice and I know just the place for you to stay.

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