Life has a way of molding us. Every event, every transition, every change has a way of carving us into the person we have become. I think back 25 years and I can’t help but smile. Sure there are some things that I wish I had done differently but I even surprise myself with how little I regret.
I’m glad I went skiing instead of pursuing my original goal of med school. I’m proud for being able to leave all I’ve ever known to venture off to Alaska on my own. I had some great summers working for the white water rafting company in the summer and skiing my brains out during the winter. I didn’t make money. I didn’t get a lot of fancy initials behind my name but I did get clocked coming down Mt. B going 56 mph on skis – and back in those days we didn’t wear helmets.
I met incredible people. Real people. I learned about horses, ranches, rodeos and almost about hockey. I discovered that my worst pair of boots will always be more comfortable than my best pair of shoes and that I’ve got a bit of a knack for this way of life. I may learn everything the hard way but I learn it and the next time around things tend to go a bit easier. I learned that some of the biggest lessons come from the most unlikely sources and to pay attention because if you don’t, the moment passes and the lesson is lost. I learned that I absolutely would survive losing someone I thought I couldn’t live without and that it’s okay to change because of that loss.
I’ve grown and stretched and forgiven. I’m not as self-absorbed or as arrogant as I once was. I’ve learned to live without regrets and I try very hard not to let pride get in the way. I knew I was where I was always meant to be when I started working for the lab at St. Charles. That experience opened a new world. When I finished my RN, it took a few months before I could grasp that I was a real nurse, with real patients. I still have moments when my job feels surreal and gives me goosebumps. Saving lives is a pretty cool way to spend a shift, isn’t it?
The people that meet me now don’t know these parts of me. They look at me and think, “Crap, Amy’s going to give me hell for not having my kid in a helmet!” They don’t know that I hung by my knees from the railroad bridge across the Crooked River Gorge or bungee jumped off of the Blue River Dam in the middle of a pitch black night. I know what an Alaskan Brown Bear smells and sounds like – and there’s only one way to know those things for sure. I’ve been down class III rapids in a life jacket – no helmet. I’ve chased a giant sea creature that easily out-sized our little skiff. I know what it feels like to launch off of the cornice at the tip top of Mt Bachelor and not even skim snow with my skis until I was already halfway down the bowl. I have what it takes to stand in a pile of mud and afterbirth to perform CPR on a stillborn calf and I certainly have what it takes to shoot a coyote circling its body. And yes, I can drink an entire bottle of Jagermeister but it will take me all night and the result is not pretty.
I suppose I am a bit of a cliche. I got married. I settled down. My name changed to “Hey Wifey” and then to “Auntie A” – and with each change came greater responsibility and the bigger realization of just how lucky I was to have survived some of those stories. Every bone I broke and joint I’ve strained reminds me now of where I’ve been and what I’ve done. Every scar comes with a story of it’s own. I’ve spent enough time tempting fate, now I calculate my risks.
A friend and I recently hiked up Broken Top. So many years had passed since I felt the freedom I felt. I love those mountains. I love winding, rocky dirt roads that turn into nothing more than a trail on the map. I love being outside and feeling the wind in my hair and the dirt in my socks. Being up there reminded me of so many things that I had forgotten about. It was like coming home. I still don’t like bears or cougars so I will always be prepared when I’m on those less traveled paths, but I do plan on reminding myself a little more often of who I really am and fully intend to climb more mountains – maybe even on skis.