I know dating is not climbing a mountain. And I know marriage is not the apex of life.
It's just that my recent marriage is the biggest thing in my world lately. Plus I have a tendency to be all jump up and down yippee! And having found someone, when after a million data points suggested that I would ultimately die alone, gave me faith for the world. Which I want to share.
But yesterday I started to wonder if I've gotten all advicey and cheerleadery and annoying.
Which would make me a down the mountain person. Which is absolutely not what I want to be.
Because here's the thing. A number of years ago, I did the Everest trek.
We didn't climb Mt. Everest. None of us were climbers, and in fact, I wasn't even a trekker. As you know, I prefer the nature through a window. This trip just kind of happened to me.
I was traveling in India and met these three hike-camp-great outdoors Americans, who tricked me into going trekking with them. Tricked is unfair. They invited me to join, and I said no. Nope. No thank you. I don't even hike.
In case you are wondering, it turned out that one of them had a grandmother who lived next door to Jane's grandmother in New Hampshire. I don't want you to think I am the kind of person who meets random strangers and traipses off to bordering countries willy nilly.
OK, maybe I am a little.
So anyway, I went to Kathmandu with them, and then they eased me into it. Why not get a trekking permit, just in case I changed my mind? And then we might as well buy boots, because I needed some anyway, because everyone needs hiking boots. And so on, up to the point of, just try it for a day! You can always turn around!
I stumbled blindly into it, and it wound up being the hardest, best thing I'd ever done. I'd do it again in a second.
But that's not the point of this.
We trekked almost to base camp. Which is a big deal in my world. Our highest point was Kala Pattar, which itself is 18,192 feet.
We walked for almost a month, in and out. We took an all-day bus from Kathmandu to Jiri, I think the name of the town was, where the road ends (or ended - it might extend further now). And then the next day, we started walking.
I don't know if you know much of anything about Nepal. I certainly didn't when we started. Basically, nothing is flat.
So you'd spend an entire day trekking up 3,000 feet.
Only to walk down 3,250 feet the next day. And you'd be all, goddammit! Now I have to go up that far tomorrow!
My thighs and ass, incidentally, were in kick-ass shape after that month.
And here I am getting closer to the point.
At the end of the day, you'd be so fucking tired. You'd have walked, with a pack on your back, for 8-10 hours, uphill (hill? mountain!) and down. You'd get to the tea house where you were staying at the end of the day, and be so happy to sit down.
And on our way up, what we discovered was this. The people who were on their way down were the ones staying up late and drinking beer and reveling. We, on the other hand, we were tending to our blisters, and having sensible dinner, and saving both our money and our energy.
What's more, when they learned that we were on our way up, they'd say things like, "It's really hard, but it's so worth it."
They were trying to be encouraging. They'd just done something so difficult, they'd done all the uphill, and now, they were in a good place. They'd trudged the same path we were trudging. They knew exactly what we felt like. They knew we were having an incredible experience that was only going to get better and better. They were happy to share. And they were also happy to be on the other side.
After a while, right or wrong, we got sick of it.
It got so annoying getting all this "we've been there and we know and it's going to be great" advice from strangers. We knew it was hard. We knew it would be worth it, and that on the way down, we'd be in the same position they were.
We also knew we were exhausted, and that the altitude made it hard to sleep, and that tomorrow might suck.
At some point, one of my friends had just had enough of the down the mountain people. He suggested we avoid them altogether.
"Listen," he said, "when we meet people, we simply say, "Up or down?"
Very simple. Up or down.
"And if they say, 'Down!' we say, 'Fuck you very much!' and move on."