Sometimes, when I’m climbing with Melissa, I turn my head and see her, and for a brief moment am completely starstruck. The face I’ve seen on all the Eddie Bauer ads, in magazines and climbing films, is right next to me. Years ago, when I would closely follow Melissa’s adventures, meeting her one day was just a distant dream. Now I consider her a close friend and mentor. Incredible. Let me explain. Melissa holds the women’s record for summits of Mt. Everest. She is an all around badass mountaineer who has traveled the globe kicking men’s butts in the sport they supposedly “dominate”.
We revere professional athletes in America. We see the fancy slam dunks and lightning speed sprints; we can’t see who was born with it, versus who worked for it. Melissa wasn’t born with everlasting endurance and rock solid rope work. This is what we can witness her doing, but she had to work a thousand times harder than you can imagine to gain something that somebody else was born with. Yet she wasn’t stopped. Nor was she hindered by the fact that she grew up with barely enough money to get by. Or the unfortunate reality that her profession of choice was almost devoid of women. I have been fortunate enough to bypass some of the obstacles she dealt with, and it still feels unimaginably hard. I often get frustrated when people don’t take my goals seriously because of my size and age. But when this happens, I often think of Melissa, and how much she had to go through to get to where she is today. So I keep on pushing.
I have learned so much from her. From proper ice axe technique, to how to fill -and zip- a duffel bag to the point of bursting, and even that instant pad thai is the best mountaineering meal out there. But the biggest lesson she has taught me is more Buddhist than anything I have read on zen-buddhism.net: You have the power to create what you want most in life.