Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Yes, I am Depressed

People continue to be amazed how upbeat and positive I am about this whole experience. The truth is, I am about 2/3 upbeat and 1/3 downbeat. I try to show the positive side more than the negative side like 90% positive to 10% negative, so I do frequently mention the money I spent is gone and that I never even had the chance to take a step above base camp. Those two factors are quite depressing. Of the dozen possible scenarios I imagined, such as losing fingers or toes, falling, having to help rescue others, getting altitude sickness, even a mass casualty incident, I never imagined that early in the season a large group of Sherpas would die from a serac collapsing in the ice fall. I had no idea. It has never happened before. 

There is consolation, I look at the money that is gone, and I learned from the experience. First of all, I am alive to mourn missing the money. That is a luxury 16 people don’t have. Second, I learned to save money. I have friends and coworkers that spend a lot more money on their daily, weekly, and monthly lifestyle than I do. I have learned to be quite diligent about what I buy and the many things I don’t buy. Third, it is a rich thing to say, but it is only money. Money comes and money goes but we only get one chance at life. I realize that is a wealthy thing to say, especially in this instance, but I will recover from this. Fourth, even while I was saving I was paying slightly more than the minimum on my loans, so my debt has been going down very gradually, and I never passed up any 401(k) matching, so my retirement funds continue to grow. Fifth, I have no medical expenses resulting from this experience. I was very prepared to have to spend time in the hospital due to an injury, and that did not happen. 

On the not even getting a chance to go above base camp there is consolation too. First, I did get to climb Mera Peak at a little over 21,000 feet. Second, I set the Strava speed record on the Kalla Pattar weather station, a full nine minutes faster than the second fastest time. Third, I ran an 8:07 mile at Gorak Shep, with an average heart rate of 174, which was very interesting. Fourth, what if I had gone up on the 18th? We were scheduled to go up on the 19th, and what if the serac had fallen 24 hours later? I might not be writing this. If you look at our world in terms of material possessions, like cars, houses, computers, bicycles, feet, toes, and even our entire body, wouldn’t you say that your life, and thus your body, is your most valuable material possession? 

So yeah, I “wasted” a lot of money and I didn’t even get the chance to really push myself on the goal I planned, and yes I’ve been drinking more alcohol since I got back. (I had two drinks Friday night, and two drinks Saturday night! I haven’t partied that hard two nights in a row in years!) The whole experience is very upsetting, but life goes one. That’s why I keep saying I don’t know what is next or what the future holds. This really put a dent, or at least delay, in some of my other plans. 

While this is probably one of the more depressing events in my life, since I didn’t know anyone killed personally, it is mentally far less devastating than failing a business and having 57 weeks of unemployment from engineering. If you’ve ever seen the dark side of depression, and made it through to the light again, I mean really made it through, future depressing events are just not so traumatic. On this note I will add, for years I have thought about going back to school to be a doctor, a medical doctor specifically. If it happens it won’t be for years, I have a lot I still want to do in engineering. However, the two areas I am most interested in are psychiatry and emergency medicine. The first is because I have had so much first and second hand experience with mental problems I think there is a lot of opportunity to help others. I did not appreciate mental illness until I had significant experience around it. The second because helping someone in an emergency and saving a life is just so powerful. What better way to help the world than to actually save the life of a kid crushed in a car accident 12 minutes ago?

So yes, I am depressed, but I have so much to be thankful for, it’s just one of the emotions I am experiencing now, and not even a dominant one. What if the avalanche had happened 24 hours later? The answer to that question is simple, in part: money and the summit of Everest are insignificant compared to the chance to live to see my 28th birthday and strengthen my relationships over the course of at least the next year. 
The Sun is out Today!

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