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101) Hike above 10,000 feet 1 May 2012

In an instant, life changes. One moment you’re on a path and everything makes sense, and then, suddenly, circumstance pulls you in the opposite direction.

A year and a half ago, I could barely walk. Each and every step I had to will out of me, using every ounce of mental and physical energy, simply to flex my quadricep.

Months before, I was in a dance rehearsal. I fell hard coming down from a leap. I heard a pop, felt my left knee twist, then bend backwards like hard liquorice, and then…thud, I dropped to the floor. The doctor’s verdict: a fully torn ACL and a damaged meniscus. Reconstructive knee surgery would be required. Crutches for a month, a robo-knee brace for three.

I’d cry myself to sleep, not just because of the pain – the incessant burning and swelling – but because I knew time would pass, slowly. I’d miss opportunities. I’d get older. Weaker. Less confident.

To harness strength, I’d imagine entire forests growing out of my knee caps: giant sequoias, redwoods, oaks. I’d spend months in physiotherapy until I could no longer afford it, and then months in my studio alone, rebuilding. I told myself then, I would one day climb a mountain.

Last Thursday, John and I set out on a gruelling 4-day trek along the Inca Trail, a 45 KM hike to the ancient city of Machu Picchu, through the Andes mountains. I doubted whether I could make it. Last year, I could barely climb the stairs in my apartment. But this week was different. This week I climbed and descended a total of 9,000 steps of steep and jagged stones – more than 2,000 each day – in altitudes peaking at over 13,000+ feet above sea level.

When you’re that high up, each step, each breath, is a challenge. Nothing is easy. You keep going. You will yourself forward. This was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I still can’t leap high or jump hard or run fast and strong. But I hiked the Inca Trail. And because of this, I feel as though I can do anything now.

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