Ella climbing up the corner of a cliffLife has a funny way of turning your world upside down right when you’re least expecting it. It’s nearly impossible to say what next week, next month, or next year will bring -- we can’t predict everything, so it’s extremely important to learn how to adapt to unexpected situations and be resilient in the face of adversity. One year ago my world was turned upside down in a split second, and I have had to figure out how to cope with these changes and learn to become more at ease with not always being in control of everything.

Last Fourth-of-July weekend I was on a climbing trip in Durango, blissfully unaware of the series of events that would forever change me. I started up a warmup route that was well within my climbing abilities, flowing easily through the movements. As I neared the top of the climb, traversing towards the anchors, the rock quality became poor and I called down to my belayer, “Hey!! Where did you go from here?” That’s the last thing I remember before waking up in the hospital a week later. I was told that the rock holding the last piece of gear I had placed basically exploded under the force of my fall, leaving me with too much slack in the system to prevent me from hitting the ground 60 feet below. My ground-fall resulted in a broken left foot, shattered right foot, broken tibia and femur, shattered pelvis, L2 compression fracture, three broken ribs, multiple jaw fractures and broken teeth, two collapsed lungs and a labyrinthine concussion. The friends I was climbing with all had wilderness medical training and went right to work stabilizing me until I could be transported to higher care. I am lucky to be alive and expected to make a full recovery, however this journey has been the absolute hardest thing I have ever gone through.

The physical injuries are healing and I am learning how my new body operates. It is the emotional trauma that has been the most difficult to cope with, but has taught me the most throughout this whole process. At first, all I felt was anger -- at myself, at the world. How could this have happened to me? What did I do to deserve this? I felt as though my entire identity had been stripped of me. I felt like I had lost everything. The only thing I knew to be certain was that I would not let my accident define me or dictate my life forever. I would be resilient.

As I have had time and space to heal from my injuries and to start sorting out the mental trauma, I have been able to see past the initial rage and resentment that I was so caught up in and realize some of the valuable lessons my accident has taught me. I have gotten better at being patient, learned that it’s OK to ask for help, and realized that it’s no use trying to be in control of everything or adhere exactly to the plans I had in my head for how my life would go.

ella climbing up a sheer rockfaceSomething that’s helped me throughout my recovery is continuing to adapt and revise my ‘plan’ for what life is going to look like in the coming days, weeks, months, years. To be resilient is to allow oneself to grow, shift, and adapt to life’s ever-changing conditions. If we have narrow views of what we think our lives should be, this leaves little room for growth or changing of plans. While it’s important to have goals and aspirations with plans for how to achieve them, it can be harmful to get too caught up in sticking to a preconceived plan. If instead we can learn to take things as they come and continually rework our mental framework, it becomes much easier to handle complications or unexpected situations.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that life is too complex to live rigidly. Life’s for learning, growing, becoming the person you want to become, hurdling whatever obstacles get thrown at you. It can be so hard to get into a different mindset when it comes to change -- lots of people are scared of change. If we can learn to embrace it, though, and attempt to seek out the good stuff even in the darkest of times, this can help turn what might be the worst thing that’s ever happened to you into something that you’re able to look back on and learn from. So take life as it comes -- the good, bad, and unexpected -- and just be present for it all.

woman in climbing helmet posing triumphantly