Two years ago I tried climbing for the first time and it was a complete disaster. I was at the YMCA with my daughter for a youth climbing event. I had watched her climb so often and she made it look so easy. She was like a little gecko! She just stuck to the wall! She climbed so effortlessly and it brought her so much joy. I wanted that. I wanted to do that and feel that and share that with her.
I hyped myself up and asked some of the other parents if I could give it a try and everyone was supportive and encouraging. When I got there I searched through the gear, unsure of what to choose and making my best guesses. I chose a harness I thought would work and it didn’t fit. I thought, “ok one harness didn’t fit, that’s ok. Ask for an XL.” I went, I asked and was met with, “That’s the largest one we have. It should fit you.” I was crushed. I was completely defeated. I needed like two more inches on the waist belt for the damn thing to fit. I wanted to run back to my car and cry all the way home. But I couldn’t because my daughter was having a wonderful time climbing. It was embarrassing to stand there fumbling with a harness that didn’t fit trying to somehow smoosh my body in a new direction that would yield a different result.
An incredibly kind person went to the front desk and expressed their outrage that the gear was not more inclusive. The staff came in and dug out an entirely different harness, it was like a exact replica of what the small children wear except it was 5 times as large. They said, “this is what we have for large people.” In that moment I was completely othered. In that moment I gave up.
I still tried climbing that day, but I didn’t get more than one foot off the ground. I was defeated and sad and no longer believed climbing was something that was available to me. Big people don’t climb. Big people can’t find gear because no one makes it for them. I felt like my body wouldn’t fit. So I sat and waited for my daughter to be done and we went home and I never thought I would climb again.
Two years later I met Strong In Nature.
With Strong In Nature I did something I thought I would never do. I not only fit my body in a harness that looks like everyone else’s, I climbed a damn mountain! I didn’t just go back to the YMCA and climb the indoor rock wall, I climbed an actual rock wall. AN ACTUAL ROCK!!! I picked a spot and told myself to climb to that spot, and if I got there and wanted to get down that would be ok. I got there and kept going. I took my fat ass up the side of that wall and then turned and looked at the view. Strong In Nature gave me a gift, they helped me give myself some of the power that I lost two years ago. What’s even more special is that I got to do it in front of my daughter. She got to see her fat mama accomplish and not be held back by her size. She will walk through this life knowing beyond doubt that fat is not bad, fat does not have to be a barrier, and fat does not have to be othered.