411 days ago I was sitting on my couch, eating mashed potatoes out of the Kitchenaid mixing bowl on Thanksgiving 2019 with a spoon, alone. After almost 7 months training sales new hires non-stop solo, my body got 3 rest days without training (Monday-Wednesday) and promptly, rudely, retaliated with sniffles and a cold. I was supposed to bring mashed potatoes to a Friendsgiving, but figured I shouldn’t bring sickness over to someone else’s house. Plus I already had the potatoes and a new recipe. So I made them – did y’all know – if you add cream cheese to mashed potatoes it. is. TRANSCENDENT?! Finally found the best potatoes ever (Pioneer Woman’s recipe) and no one to share with.
As I lounged on my couch, scooping up lazy spoonfuls of starchy joy, I dallied through the internet and came upon an article about plus size women climbing Kilimanjaro with WHOA Travel. I scanned it, moved on. Then I went back and actually read it. Then I clicked through to WHOA’s website. And found myself 2 hours later 6 layers deep into a rabbit hole of reading yet another blog from someone on that trip.
I want to try and find the right words here – there is something…what’s the opposite of insidious? Like, it grabs ahold of you and won’t let go…but a good way? It was like a taking a cold drink of water when your body is super hot – you can just feel something bright and alive oozing through every single cell of your body – infusing the dry crevices and cracks. I felt, for probably the first time, that I could do this insane thing. That it was possible. That I was capable. And it was sneaking into my dry corners. Nooks that hadn’t seen something wild in a minute.
Not ‘someone.’ Me.
I could do something hard and physical and a little wild and SUCCEED. The power in realizing ‘people can climb Kilimanjaro’ vs. “I can climb Kilimanjaro.” Intoxicating. A little nuts.
It became an excited little whisper in my ear, saying ‘Bodies who look like you are doing this. You could do this.’ In my mind, the whisper looked a bit like Joy from Inside Out:
That whisper was relentless. It had me thinking about boots and backpacks and whenever I tried to sit on the idea it would squirm out and say ‘I mean, you could also use a GORE-TEX rain coat for like, normal life too.’ Relentless, sensible things! My little hope siren was on a manic pixie dream high, ahhhoooooogahhhing loudly.
WHOA had another trip specifically for their plus-size adventurers going again in February 2020. I sent an info request even though it would have been less than 3 months away. I ordered boots the same day. On Monday, one of the WHOA consultants called me and told me it was doable in less than 3 months, but I’d have to commit and be serious about training. I took a beat.
“Do I really want to do this? If yes, do I want to give myself the best shot at succeeding?” I did. So while WHOA+ had been such a formative and inspirational part of me taking a step toward climbing Kilimanjaro, I knew I needed more. Time to get fit, time to research routes and gear, to find a guide company, to work up to hiking 6-8 hours a day. I went home for the holidays, and at my birthday dinner told my family: “I am going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in October of 2020.” And this thing really began.
Wait, so what’s the point of this one? Why is this part of why you’re climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro?
Because someone said I could. I don’t know how else to say it. It was like someone sat next to me, kindly took my hand, with direct eye contact and said, ‘I believe in you. You could do this, if you want to. You don’t need to wildly change to do it. You’re capable.’ And that was enough for me. A paradigm shift in how I viewed what my body was capable of.
That bodies like mine aren’t for hiding. That they’re powerful and strong. This body is made for a mountain. The outdoors doesn’t belong exclusively to ‘straight sizes’ or society norms of mountain bodies. While I’ve definitely gotten stronger in training over the last 13 months I haven’t dropped an insane amount of weight. My bones are still the same. I’m still a size 12/14, having started this at 16/18. I’m still over 200lbs.
And I’m going to climb a mountain with that body. A big body for a big mountain. My body is my ally in this, not something I need to shove into a certain size.
It’s wildly freeing to realize that. It feels silly to type it – knowing – of course outdoors is made for all of us. Of course I could climb a mountain. But when I think back to that moment; reading the article and why I actually clicked through for the information request – what made me do it?
Someone said I could do it. And this time, I believed them. I looked my dream in the eye and whispered back, “OK.” Here we are.
So if you’re sitting there, reading this, thinking about doing something a little wild, a little crazy, an idea squirming to be free, a dream image you’ve carried for years, whispering in your ear that you’re nervous about, scoot over. Just a little skoootch. I’m going to take a seat next to you. Give me your hand. You choose which one. I know eye contact is sometimes uncomfortable, but we’re going to do it. Hi. You know that thing? The one you haven’t told anyone about? Or you told someone but then said ‘it’s a joke’ and laughed off? Yeah. That one. You could do it, if you want to. You don’t need to wildly change to do it. You’re capable. And if you need support, I can help a bit and give pointers. But you’re not alone. And you can do the thing.
And it’s ok if now isn’t the season for it. But when you’re ready, I’ll have your back.
*squeezes hand softly*
Just think about it.