Thursday, 17 December 2015

Facing negativity

Some people – namely my boyfriend Del – would say I have a negative mindset. I would argue I’m just realistic. But when I came up with the stupidly ambitious idea to set myself a quest of climbing 40 volcanoes by the age of 40, I think I was neither negative nor realistic. I was in the realm of wishful thinking. 

Having missed by target to climb volcano number two before the end of this year, while also excelling at procrastinating on all other research, planning and preparation for next year’s volcanoes (now eight after failing to climb Mt Teide this year), I have spent the past couple of weeks mopping about feeling sorry for myself.

But what a kick up the backside a work Christmas party can be. The conversation with a former work colleague went something like this:

“This sounds like a very ambitious idea. You have to climb, what, eight volcanoes a year. Hmmm. Perhaps too ambitious, I think,” the former colleague (FC) said.

Another former colleague piped up. “Have you considered looking for sponsorship? Maybe approach some sports companies.”

I ummed and ahhed at the idea. “To be honest,” I said, “it’s not really something I’ve thought of.”

“But you would have a much better chance of achieving your 40 volcanoes,” the first FC countered.

He continued: “How do you plan to climb these volcanoes? Independently or with a guide?”

I explained that with some (probably many) I would invest in the skills of an expert guide – I could tap into their knowledge base, you see, and it could make good commentary for stories. Plus I would get around the faff of organising climbing permits as some tour guides would do it for me.

He looked unconvinced. “You’re not going to get sponsorship that way. Sponsors prefer people to climb things under their own steam. Hmmmm,” he mused. “You’ve climbed one volcano so far, how did you climb that?”  

“Well,” I felt the red rising to my cheeks, “I sort of cheated and got a shuttle bus halfway up.”

He looked astounded, shook is head, and said: “You’re definitely not getting sponsorship then. This idea is just too ambitious.”

I felt deflated. Just when I needed a motivational pep talk, support and encouragement, I’d had my idea pooh-poohed and kicked into touch. I pushed the kale in cream sauce around my plate.   

Despite how insurmountable and whimsical (or stupid) my quest had become this conversation had left me indignant. Why should someone else’s opinion define the outcome of this goal? I suddenly felt that I could not let myself be overcome by negativity.

And then a friend sent me a link to a Kiwi bloke’s blog. Dave Williams, a teacher, aims to be the first person to scale the highest mountain, from sea level, on each of the seven continents. In 2013 he climbed Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895m) in Tanzania. Despite near crippling altitude sickness he reached the summit. His account of the climb hit a nerve.

He writes:  “I have no qualms in stating that I found this six hours to be some of the toughest I have faced. Many times I thought I was not going to make it and that I wanted to turn back, but it’s not what we think but what we do that defines us. If you have dreamed of doing something but pushed it aside because it was too hard or too expensive, then I urge you to put that dream back on the table and somehow make it work. If you are scared of failing, the only true way you can fail is to continue to make excuses and not even try.” 

Here I am stumbling at the first hurdle. Note to self (and New Year’s Resolution): Must try harder (and who cares what other people think).