This weekend, I was honored to be a finalist in the Insulindependence Athletic Achievement Award for 2013–I submitted a short video about Project365 along with 24 other amazing athletes with diabetes, many of whom I am proud to call personal friends. To be honest I was pretty surprised to make it that far in the first place–I know that climbing is exciting and novel in its own way, but so many of the folks who also entered are far beyond me in terms of athletics. To be honest I have never considered myself an athlete–just a diabetic with a climbing habit that has steered my life through the challenges of this chronic illness.
I have to remember that last line, that’s going to be the epigram for my book when I write it…
As things turned out, my video was viewed almost 5,000 times thanks to YOU–who watched, shared, “liked”, tweeted, retweeted, blogged, reblogged, harassed, pestered and publicized. That was good enough to get me invited to San Diego to the final award ceremony and I felt very honored. The other two gentlemen that were finalists along with me have been good friends and super supportive of Project365 from the outset. Really wonderful people, sincere, with a heart for helping people with diabetes–the kind of people that I knew I’d be happy for if they won over me, the kind of people that I’d feel a little sheepish and humbled winning over them.
Going into the competition, I was committed to one thing: winning the award. During this weekend, prior to the presentation of the award, something changed in my mind. The appeal of the award paled in comparison to the magic that happens when you get a couple hundred passionate, incredibly talented and committed people together who are all in pursuit of the same goal. This creates competition–where people are vying for publicity and funding–basic needs that sustain our efforts–but competition–and staying “hungry” is important. It’s not a negative thing to say ‘hey, I want to win this’. It causes all of us to elevate our game and our minds. Moreover, it creates waves that reverberate outside of the diabetes community to indicate that there are enough of us out there who are getting after it to really create some competition–and that is a beautiful thing that none of us could do alone!
By this point you must have figured out that I didn’t win the competition. Honesty is an important (if not widely appreciated) quality–and so I’ve got to say, when it hit me that I would not be taking home the $5,000.00 that would help complete the documentary that I have poured my entire life into for 2 years, it felt like a failure. I failed. Why wasn’t I good enough to get more people to vote for me? I have always been my harshest critic and my reaction is always to initially take challenges and internalize them. Challenges like diabetes. Like falling off climbs.
Some people seem to think I’m a “professional diabetic” to borrow a phrase from Bill Carlson, or that diabetes isn’t a struggle for me because I climb “stuff”. Between the summits that I have shared through Project365 there have been valleys darker than a well-diggers colon–depression, despair, inadequacy, you name it–and it periodically crashes in on me. Writing this blog is one of the hardest ones I have ever had to do. I don’t like to admit that I don’t handle challenges well–frequently. I’d like to be seen as a class act that can accept failure with grace–but it’s a struggle for me and like it or not, that’s me and it’s out there.
But that moment passed and I put on my big-boy pants and realized that this award was never mine to begin with and that I had not lost anything. I had fabricated a path in my mind and attached myself to an outcome rather than just being open. That was my only failure! This moment, this award, had belonged to someone else and that was our success together as a community.
Yesterday, I had some time to talk to Scott and as we shared stories and congratulated each other, I felt like a fool for even allowing myself to entertain the feeling of failure. This weekend was an opportunity for me to reset my perspective again, and I am very thankful that Scott is such a gracious guy–and I am truly excited for him to explore the horizons of his athletics–and hopefully to come climbing with me like we have been planning for a year!
So what’s next? Well, this isn’t really a setback for the Project365 documentary. I am more inspired than I have ever been and more motivated to complete what we all started together. We will take a different route to the summit–and it will be superb. I hope that you, my partners won’t sever the ropes that connect us, upon realizing that I have flaws that I have yet to master.