Hiking, climbing, lungs burning, legs heavy, my breath pillowing out in smoke as the cold air around me wraps me tight. Looking up, I see them. The mountains that call to me in a distant roar, that pulls at the bottom of my chest, like an inner animal that is fighting its way to get out, to be up there.
Living in Colorado, I hiked more days than not. I went as far as I could, as high as I could. I sat at the top where the only sound I could hear was my heartbeat in my ears and the wind twirling and swirling around me. I thought about all aspects of my life, thought about my past and present, about where I was going. I felt so clearheaded.
Hiking, putting one foot in front of the other, climbing up and up and up, made the world make sense. I saw these mountains that couldn’t be tamed in front of me, and I sat alongside them. I sat within them, feeling their pulse in a way that I can never put properly into words.
Life became full of possibilities. Which peak would I climb to next? Which mountain would make my heart sing that day? It became a beautiful symphony of longing and conquering. Wanting and doing.
The more I climbed, the less pictures I took. But it wasn’t always that way.
In the beginning, I was infatuated with getting the perfect shot. Making sure the composition was just right, the lighting was where I wanted it to be, the colors setting each other off in just the right way.
I put them up on social media, showed them off to the world as if to say, “Look what I did!” But more so, “Look at this picture, isn’t my life perfect?”
I was obsessed. I spent more time on my hike thinking about what I wanted to portray than actually looking around me. How could I make sure that everyone who follows me will like it?
Then, my roommate Miranda gave me a disposable camera and I made a promise to myself.
I would only take one picture, and I would take it as soon as I got to the top so I wouldn’t think about it while I was up there. No longer would the obsession be about the perfect picture, but it would be about enjoying the view at the top.
This was in 2016. I had honestly put this disposable camera in the back of my mind, had pretty much forgotten about it until a week ago, when I was cleaning out an old dresser and I found it. I was so excited.
I got them developed and wanted to show them to the world, but I wanted each one to carry their weight of the impact they had on my life. I wanted them to tell the story of each hike, of each peak.
Because these weren’t just pictures of mountains, they were a souvenir of a hike that I had done, that I had struggled through, that I felt my lungs burning, felt my legs getting stronger with each step. They were moments in my life that were important, that will always remind me of that winter.
I’ve traveled many places, I’ve seen so many faces, I’ve experienced so many beautiful things, but this winter, this was the winter that I became who I am today.