Monday, February 20, 2012

A Year in Review

A year in review:

I'm not sure exactly why I did this project.  Most of my friends and family don't even know about it. It was partially because I was upset about turning 30, and partially because I have a non-traditional lifestyle and thought it would be interesting to take a look at what I do on a daily basis over the course of a year. I also had ambitious goals for my 30th year (technically my 31st year if you want to split hairs.) I wanted to summit my first real mountain, Middle Teton, and I was going to have to do a ton of hiking to get me there. I also wanted to travel someplace new, and generally make the most of what's left of my youth. I thought these things would make for interesting photos.

My year started off without a hitch. I took a month off from my ship so I could be home for my birthday and travel to Nicaragua. My boyfriend and life partner, Grant picked the country, as I was at sea and couldn't research anything. I was able to grab a travel guide, and roughly outline a few places to go, but we flew by the seat of our pants once there. It was fun, and really cool to finally be in a place where they not only let you practice your Spanish without cutting in with English, but you actually HAD to speak a little Spanish to get around. Plus it was gorgeous with very few tourists.

Upon coming home, I encountered something I had not planned on: severe pain in my right breast accompanied by a lump I didn't have before. This set off a whirlwind of doctor appointments. I was sent in for an ultrasound, but because I had crossed the magical line of age 30, and because I had a lump, I was forced into a mammogram (which turned out to be useless as despite my advanced age, I am not old enough to have lost my dense breast tissue). I did not realize what a mammogram consisted of until they put those clamps on. I was pissed! The ultrasound, however, proved I needed a needle biopsy, which was done right then and there as I explained I had to go to sea in a week. This came back inconclusive, so it was determined that I had to have it out. In the meantime I was assured I could wait until I got home from sea. Two miserable months later (my stress level was so high, that I lost it with the Captain, and was almost fired), I came home to surgery.  This proved it was merely a fibroadenoma, which is in no way cancerous, and does not increase the likelihood of cancer later. So good news, and just a small scar to remind me of turning 30.

Days after surgery, I wrapped my boobs up tightly, and started a month-long all women's boot camp, to jump start me on my fitness goals. I was exhausted that month, but also felt strong, and had the foundation I needed to start on my original goal to to summit my first real mountain.

So we were off to Jackson Hole for two months of hiking. This year my parents and friends finally took me up on my offers to visit. With these (fun) obligations ahead of us, we had to push our summit attempt up. We had been waiting for the snow to melt, but it was never going to happen this year, and we didn't want to wait so long it started snowing again! Usually Middle Teton is a "non-technical" climb and is snow-free by August and September. I took a rock-climbing class, but couldn't squeeze in a snow course, ironically because there wasn't enough snow left! Well, there were tons of snow fields on the climb, and I was not mentally or physically equipped for it. In the end, with the threat of lightning looming coupled with total mental exhaustion, we simply ran out of time, and had to turn back about 800' from the top. I am probably the only person who has attempted Middle Teton and not made it, but then again, I am probably the only person this inexperienced who wanted to try, so I suppose that is my excuse, and my folly.

In short, I failed. This was the first personal goal I had set for myself in a long time, and was also the first time I failed at one of those goals. Some of my previous life goals were to go to Cal Maritime and become a professional sailor (check), and to go skydiving (made it 36 times).  Skydiving is way easier than mountaineering. In order to skydive, all you have to do is jump. Mountaineering requires a lot of time and effort as well as mental and physical conditioning.  So I should be proud for getting close, and for not killing myself over it. Plus, I hiked further and faster than ever before, I summited another peak, Jackson Peak, and I did a solo thru-hike on the first 12-miles of the Teton Crest Trail in which I didn't see another person until the turnoff towards the resort. It ended with a a PBR tallboy and a free ride down the Tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, a worthy accomplishment itself!

I finished off the year with more work, and a quick trip to Mexico, which was ok. The Puerto Vallarta area is not my favorite place in the world, but it was way sunnier and nicer than my neck of the woods in January/February! Plus I got to go to a real Mexican Rodeo.

One of the real highlights of the year was flying to Ann Arbor Michigan to watch my brother defend his thesis, and get his PhD in molecular biology, specifically in HIV research (the official title is really long!). I may not have summited my mountain this year, but my brother summited his, and is making an incredible contribution to the world with his work and ideas for curing this tragic disease. If only more of us could accomplish such things by the age of 32!

A few notes about the project itself:

This project was really hard. It is hard to remember to take a picture every day, let alone nice pictures that represent what you did that day. In fact, I didn't make it, hence pictures of the previous day's log book, and other methods of cheating. I went through three cameras. I finally bought a nice one after my incredible summer of hiking, which I regret having not done from the start. My friend gave me her old iphone, which was invaluable for getting a photo every day.  It was also hard to go through the pictures and update the blog in a timely manner.  I was often a month behind, and it only got worse the closer I came to the end.

I regret not having taken more photos of my ships. I forget that what is mundane to me is very interesting to people who have never been on ships before. I think I should have taken more pictures of myself and the people in my life, though I didn't feel comfortable putting their pictures on the world wide web.

Throughout the project I noticed a lot of monotony in my life, hence the "same shit, different day" titles given to a lot of my photos. Because of this I think it is a great project everybody should try. When you have photographic evidence that you are squandering your time on Earth, it pushes you to change your routine, try new things, and have some fun! 

Grant wrote me a beautiful letter for my 31st birthday with a link to an adventure movie to watch.  In it, one of the mountain bikers mentioned the quote "Follow your Folly."  This is my new life goal:  To always follow my folly and keep having adventures.  What's the worst that can happen? Failure? I guess I had better get off this couch and get going then.

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