A Way Forward

Good afternoon ma’am! Just wanted to drop a quick note to say thanks.

I’ve been climbing off and on for about 11 years depending on my location. Last week I was finally able to get back on the wall, albeit below the yellow bouldering line, after taking a long hiatus due to injuries. Back in 2010 I got my fourth head injury along with neck injury while stationed overseas with the Air Force. Up to that point I thrived and craved being on the rock and like many things that was taken away when I broke my brain. During my first 2 years of recovery my climbing partner would sneak me out to some of our favorite crags and let me play around. It was never the same tho, no one wanted me to belay them and they would only let me top rope out of fear they’d break me more. I use to love the adrenaline rush and controlling the fear in exchange for the freedom of all my extreme sports. All of my prior professional training and education is worthless now since I’ll never be the same as I once was so I’m looking slowly towards the activities I use to enjoy so much. I’m determined not to be defined by the label of “disabled veteran” and reclaim some of the of those activities.

During my recovery time I would spend a lot of time trying to find inspiration and a way forward with my life. I really enjoyed both of your books and your “Choosing to Fly” TedxBoulder. Over the last 18 months or so since I left active duty, much of what you said about risk, loss, and living life resonated with me. It gave me hope that while I may never fly aerobatics, fight fire, race downhill mountain bikes, or do crazy shenanigans again, there were many things I could still do. Climbing is going to be one of them. I may not do another V6 or 5.13 anytime soon, I can start on below the yellow line and eventually belay, top, and then lead again.

That said, keep writing, posting, flying, and climbing….its important to some of us with broken brains but hopeful minds!

Happy Holidays and stay safe out there!
“We are not defined by our many scars, but by what we do when the wounds close.”
-Heroes and Horses Motto

Hi Rachel,
Thank you for writing to me and telling your story. I’m very sorry to hear about your injuries, and I think your approach is proactive and positive. I know you’re not alone, because other people with similar injuries have written to me and are actively climbing. You’re right, life is about focus. It feels good to focus on what we can do and what we have–that is the way forward.
Wishing you good holidays and a fine start to 2017!

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