Everyone Needs Support for Their Dreams
In September 2009, Ridlon climbed and summited Cho Oyu, the 6th highest mountain in the world. To accomplish this dream took intensive physical training as well as steadfast mental determination and courage. However, another crucial and overlooked aspect of reaching that goal was an unwavering support team. I was that team. And while it may seem uncaring to say, deciding to give that support was a very difficult decision.
Ridlon now speaks at weekly events about the climb and the lessons he learned about life along the way. Inevitably, someone always turns to me, the support team, and asks about what it is like to be the “wife” of someone doing something so “obviously dangerous” and how I am able to support him.
As An Adventurer Myself….it’s Hard to Be in the Role of Supporter
As an adventurer myself, I find it much easier to be in the role of the explorer rather than in the role of the support network. As the adventurer you know better than anyone what challenges lie ahead and how prepared you are at any given time, both physically and mentally to meet those challenges. The adventurer understands the risk better but at the same time also understands better what is “not risky”.
For example, I spent two years as a professional underwater shark feeder. Most people’s eyes widen with fear when they hear this. However, while I certainly understood the risk involved in what I did, I was educated in regards to the process of shark feeding, the type of sharks involved, and their potential behavior. For me, driving a freeway in Los Angeles is a much more scary and risky endeavor.
So when Ridlon came and told me that he wanted to climb the world’s highest mountains, I had to do quite a bit of soul searching. The knee jerk reaction to that of course, is “How dare he go do something so risky ”But then I started thinking. What if someone had tried to stop me from my dreams? How dare THEY!
Communication is KEY
So we talked…a lot. And over the course of many conversations I came down to just a few deciding questions.
Was he willing to take the risk of losing his own life? Was this worth it?
Was he willing to take the risk FOR ME….to leave me behind in life without him?
Was he willing to make the sacrifices it would take to accomplish this dream?
And once he said yes to all of these and I was ok with it, then I gave him my unconditional support and never looked back.
How Does Support Look?
How did that support look? The first thing I did was educate myself. We fear that which we don’t understand, so, while, I was already a rock climber, I didn’t know too much about high altitude mountaineering. I read books, talked with climbers and spent a great deal of time with Ridlon understanding and asking questions. And in fact, as I began to understand, I became excited about it and very proud of his dream.
Then we sat down and figured out the logistics of his training from the standpoint of both time and financial resources. What would it take financially? How would it interfere with our business? Our social life? How much time apart would it involve? And the one question that I never really did get an answer to was, “Is this a singular goal or the beginning of something?” And while his vague response leaned towards a singular goal, we both knew in our hearts it was just the beginning. And I needed to be ok with that.
When the time came for him to go to Nepal for a month for training, I was nervous. But my words to him were, “Go and focus and learn and accomplish what you can. Don’t give me a second thought, because you need to concentrate on the mountain, not what your wife is thinking about at home. If you can email, do so but I don’t expect anything.” It was very important that I not put the added pressure of my needs on top of the challenge at hand. Was that difficult for me? Of course, but it would have been incredibly selfish to do so. This was his time to challenge himself and the mountain and he needed all of his concentration for that.
When it came time to go back to Nepal six months later to climb Cho Oyu, his first 8000m peak and ultimate goal, I decided that the best way to support him was to be there. So one week before he left, I bought a plane ticket and joined him. It was the best choice I could have made. The excitement level of the adventure doubled and so did my ability to support him emotionally by being there. In the end, Ridlon summited and I couldn’t have been more proud or more supportive. It was a great bonding time for us in what could have been a time of jealousy, resentment and fear. And in the course of his great adventure, I climbed higher than I ever had, reaching a new personal best for me at 20,000 feet. We both came home winners.
My advice for anyone in this same position is:
Think about dreams. Would you want someone to take away yours? Don’t take away someone else’s as hard as it may be. You BOTH have one life to live to it’s fullest, don’t attempt to curtail someone else’s passion.
Educate yourself. Become a part of the dream. Learn about what your partner is interested in. For me, I already had an interest in climbing but it may not be the same for you. That’s ok, but learn enough to be supportive and to be able to converse on the subject. If he sees you are trying it will make a huge difference.
Become personally involved. Perhaps this actually may be something you become interested in. If so, that’s fantastic…BUT don’t do it JUST because he does.
Leave resentment behind. There is no return from the path of resentment. Figure out another way.
If you can’t. If you simply can’t get behind the dream, let him know. Perhaps it is time for you to part ways. Don’t stand in the way, talk it through.
Whatever you decide, try to find common ground on your dreams and be supportive of each other. You will find a more fulfilling and happier life.
To Your Adventures,
Read more from the archives of Ridlon’s climbing adventures in Nepal and Tibet…
Also check out more posts from Sept., 2009 on his climb to Cho Oyu