I am a 36 year old mother of 4.
I am a mountaineer.
I am strong.
I am determined.
I am a leader.
I am living the life of my dreams.
But It wasn’t always this way.
At 19 I became a Mother. I had been with my boyfriend for two years but after our daughter was born he decided surfing and partying suited him more than fatherhood. He split when our daughter was 6 months old.
A year later I was babysitting for my brother and his longtime friend was visiting. He and I started chatting. Chatting became dating and a few whirlwind years later we were married with two children. It didn’t take me long to realize we weren’t a good fit, but we had children and I wanted to give our marriage all I had.
Unfortunately, he didn’t feel the same way. While he was busy working or golfing, I homeschooled our children, worked part time at Starbucks, and served at our church. I was trying so hard to be the perfect woman, the perfect mother, and the perfect wife. But pretending only lasts for so long.
After my children fell asleep I loved watching documentaries. My favorite movies told stories of people pursuing passions and accomplishing goals. People living life on THEIR terms. Movies like ‘Surfwise’, ‘The September Sessions’ and ‘180° South’… films that harkened back to my California roots, a time and a place when I felt free. I would watch these movies and cry. I felt empty but it didn’t make sense. I was a mother, a teacher, a wife. Shouldn’t that have been enough? Shouldn’t that have given me the purpose I needed?
Being a mom was, and still is, the best job in the world. I loved waking up in the morning and cuddling with my babies, watching their sleepy eyes light up as they waked. I loved listening to their conversations about topics that mattered to them. I loved celebrating their success and wiping tears when they failed. But at the end of the day, after I finished homeschooling, preparing meals, putting the children to bed and cleaning the house, I felt hollow.
It took me awhile to realize that I am not fulfilled functioning exclusively as a homemaker. I like a clean house, but I’m no Martha Stewart. I like food, but I’d rather order pizza. And while my son loves baseball, I find it boring.
After years of pretending and feeling as if I would never measure up, it was time to make some very hard decisions–my marriage ended and I began the journey to find myself. It wasn’t easy and rebuilding my life was a constant work in progress. I spent every day for 12 years with my children and then, all of the sudden, I was spending 3 days a week in an empty house. I filled my time working two jobs, but I missed waking up to the sounds of my children. I missed eating breakfast with them. I missed cuddling them in bed and watching a movie or reading. I had built my entire life around them; I didn’t even know who I was when I was alone. I had my freedom but I was still empty.
The summer before my divorce, a friend and I had started hiking every Monday with our kids. These hikes brought on a nostalgia for my youth, for time spent outside as a child when I was free and at peace. I began trekking farther and higher and returning home to my children with renewed purpose and perspective. It didn’t matter that the dishes were piled in the sink. I didn’t care if we ate bagged salad and apple pie for dinner. Even baseball games were easier to tolerate. All that mattered was that we were together.
The four of us were happy in our tiny one bedroom apartment. We would watch movies on my laptop, eat meals on the floor around the coffee table. I would leave for work at 3a.m. and be home by 10a.m. just in time to start homeschooling for the day. A couple days a week I would leave again by 2p.m. and head to my second job. My girls would tidy the house and my son would help one of his sisters prepare dinner but we always ate together.
Over time, I began to learn how to be alone. When the children left for their Dad’s house, my routine became to pull out my hiking books and decided which trail to hit next.
Hiking became trail running which became dreams of reaching the highest peaks I could find. I would stare at the Olympic range and dream of standing on Mt. Olympus. I would catch glimpses of Mt. Rainier and tell myself, “one day you will stand up there.” I found a little more of myself each time I stepped onto a trail; I was finding happiness through adventure. As I ran, long-lost memories flooded my head. Memories of weekends spent camping with my parents at desert springs, helping my dad train for his Mt. Whitney summit, fishing, sailing, driving hours just to eat pie at a little cafe my mom had read about. Memories I wanted to share with my kids, memories I wanted to make our own.
Pretending to be someone I wasn’t and going through the motions of motherhood was not what I wanted to model for my children. I want my children to know that there is more to life than living within a box of expectations and that they are capable of pursuing their goals; no matter how big, no matter how late, no matter how crazy.
The woman that I am now models these things. I summit mountains, I climb walls, I live a life that feels full. I am a 36 year old mother of four who is finally living the life of my dreams.
In the spring 2017, I enrolled in an Alpine Climbing Course with the Mountaineers Organization in Tacoma and fulfilled my dream of summiting Mt Rainier. In my next post, I’ll share more about how I gained the required technical skillset to make that dream a reality and how growing my sense of self-efficacy enabled me to succeed.