“What lies behind us, and what lies before us are but tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Hey Guys! My name is Danielle Phillips, and I am a 28 year old PNW native.
Growing up my parents instilled in me a love for the great outdoors, taking us on day hikes, weekend camping trips, and summer vacations spent visiting one National Park or the next. It was my foundation in life, and my best memories were outside. But as I progressed into adolescence, my priorities and attention went elsewhere. I was no longer choosing mountains, rather choosing marathons. My relationship with the outdoors transformed into one that involved much more pavement, and far less elevation, but it was calming and relaxing nonetheless. I would set out on a city trail and run through park after park until I found myself miles away from where I started, only to have to run back again. I never listened to music because I enjoyed being consumed by my surroundings and letting my mind be quiet. It was meditative for me.
I trained and ran marathons for 2 years before suffering a debilitating injury that put a stop to my active lifestyle. I was actually running when it all came to a head, and in that instant I went from a 20-something healthy marathon runner to a scared girl in the hospital unsure of her future. I suffered a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) in my right leg, from my ankle to my hip and spent 8 days in the hospital. The doctor's assured me I was quite lucky to be alive.
It was 5 slow and frustrating weeks before I was able to walk properly again. Once I was able to start moving around more naturally, it became apparent that my leg was not going back to "normal” anytime soon. It was painful, swollen, and fatigued most of the day, and I had to wear compression stockings during all my awake hours. I wasn’t really sure how much function I would get back and my doctors had never seen a case like mine so they were just as clueless as I was. My activity was extremely limited, both by doctors orders and my own physical limitations. I was feeling scared, frustrated, and lost.
I’m not sure what sparked the idea, but for some reason my ultimate goal of recovery was to be able to hike again, and I truly didn’t know if I ever would get there. Although it had been years since I had been an avid hiker, the idea of never being able to climb another mountain was heartbreaking to me. This goal stuck with me through my entire rehabilitation and was a constant motivator.
You see, I have known Tiare for almost 15 years now and while I was going through my journey, she was in the midst of hers as well. I followed her story from afar because we hadn't talked in a few years, but her courageous honesty and genuine soul still spoke to me. She inspired me to push through my pain, to move more and move often, to get outside, and most importantly to be grateful. I was a victim of my injury for so many years, and finally I could see so clearly that it was up to me to change that. I was tired of living in fear, I was tired of holding myself back.
So finally, nearly 5 years after my injury I set a goal to complete 52 hikes in 2016. But, twenty sixteen was a crazy year of transformation in more than one way. As I overcame the obstacles of my DVT, a new problem arose, anxiety and panic attacks. It came without warning and, before I knew it, it grabbed hold of my life. The only thing that could bring me peace were the mountains. I gained perspective and realized what this crazy life is about for me and what I want out of it.
While I didn't accomplish my goal of 52 hikes, I did get out and see some pretty amazing places and spaces that I now hold near and dear to my heart. The hiking was hard. A lot harder than I expected it to be, and I was embarrassed around others, as if it’s my fault my leg has a deficit. Still, I couldn't help it, I felt insecure about not being as physically fit and able as I once was. But through all the pain and embarrassment something beautiful was born. The people around me rallied to my side, they supported me when when I felt weak, encouraged me to be strong and confident, and taught me how to love myself. I learned the true importance of community and am so thankful for my tribe.
The mountains have freed me in more ways than one. They have become a fundamental aspect of my life, and I hope that never changes. I have dreams of mountaineering climbing courses, standing on volcano summits, multi-pitch climbs, and thru-hiking treks. The mountains give me a passion for life unlike anything else in this world. They make me realize just how small and insignificant all my worries and problems truly are. When I am out on the trail I remember that as long as I can keep putting one foot in front of the other, just keep moving forward, everything will be just fine.
So spend your life pushing your comfort zones, embracing change, and making room for growth. And as for the rest of it? Well, as my favorite yoga teacher says, just let that shit go.