What is the single best piece of advice you’d give to everyone?
It’s certainly not original, but I’d say the old tried and true “carpe diem” — seize the day. We have one shot at this thing called life, so make the most of it. Pursue your dreams, learn to love yourself, give yourself a break, let your hair down once in awhile, and occasionally allow yourself to walk away — yes, to quit — when something really doesn’t feel right. As much as you may do and even sacrifice for others, make your own happiness a top priority.
When did you make the biggest difference?
My first inclination would be to say I made the biggest difference beginning the day I joined Search & Rescue, because we as a team make a significant difference in many people’s lives. But when I think about it a bit longer, I believe the biggest difference I’ve made and continue to make as an individual is when it comes to the person closest to me — closer than anyone ever: my husband. And the same holds true in reverse. It may be mostly in small ways, but we support each other every day. I’m his rock, and he’s mine, and it feels so good when I see him smile. As a Purple Heart veteran of two wars, my husband has been through a lot and lives with PTSD, but I’m here for him for the rest of our lives, and he knows that … and I know that makes a big difference to him.
What was your greatest moment?
My greatest single moment was reaching the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail at the top of Mt. Katahdin, 2,169 miles beyond where I’d started my journey 178 days earlier. Yes, it was the journey that mattered most — each minute of each day — but reaching that ultimate goal was so exhilerating and empowering. I felt at that moment (and many moments leading up to it) that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. I felt joy and deep satisfaction. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget and cherish.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
What advice would you give to your teenage self?
I would tell my teenage self to not try so hard to be perfect: perfect grades, perfect weight, etc — that those things don’t determine success or happiness. I’d tell my teenage self to give things my best but not beat myself up for not always being the high achiever. I’d tell her to have a bit more fun and a little less stress, because there would be plenty of the latter to be had later in life, when life would get more complicated.
Share a moment that made you laugh out loud.
I remember, when I was hiking the Appalachian Trail, there was a particularly rainy, cold day in the Great Smokey Mountains. I was soaked head to toe and the only heat was in my feet, meaning I had to keep moving to stay warm … or warm “enough,” at least. The trail was a river of mud, and I was covered with it. That evening, when I arrived at a small lean-to packed with at least a dozen likewise soaked, stinky hikers, with wet clothing and gear hanging from every nail, stuffed in cracks, hanging from nylon cord strung across the shelter roof every which way — as I stood there under the eave, dripping as I tried to figure out my next move (like taking off my pack) as all those other hikers watched and smiled, knowing exactly how I felt — someone said, “To most people, this would be torture.” I know it sounds ridiculous, but I and my tightly-packed companions started howling uncontrollably, tears running down my face as I laughed so hard. The thing was, I was incredibly happy, loving every wet, muddy, cold moment, every sore spot on my body, the camaraderie with those people laughing with me, even if I’d never seen them before. It was a true, long laugh, and boy did that feel great.