Love You To Denali & Back

Tired boy.

I picked Chris up at the airport this morning. He’s been in Alaska for the past 17 days, pursuing a life-long dream to climb and ski Denali. He succeeded. I’ve never been so proud or happy for someone as I was watching him realize this dream.

Chris hopped a red eye from Anchorage to Salt Lake City and landed at 7:32 this morning. Fitting that it’s on Father’s Day as Chris took my last name - my father’s name. My father, who is no longer here in the physical. My father, without whom, none of this would be possible.

They say it’s likely you’ll marry your mother (or father) and I most certainly married my father.

I married his childlike enthusiasm, his tunnel-vision for his goals, his stubbornness, his affinity for toys (particularly of the sporting variety), his temper, his optimism (sometimes misunderstood as naïveté), his belief in me, and his love for me.

So very grateful for this man and the life we’re creating together.

While Chris was in Alaska, I started thinking more about the life that we’re building together and the adventures that lie ahead. In the five years I’ve known Chris we’ve gone through so much:

He got divorced, I retired from skiing, he moved to Utah, we both started new jobs, my dad died, we got married, started a business, lived with my mom for 6-months, built a house, went on the Amazing Race (Jen), quit the “new jobs” to pursue entrepreneurship, and climbed Denali (Chris).

We’ve talked, throughout our five years, about starting a family, but it always felt crazy. There were so many balls in the air, there was so much instability that needed to be settled. When one of us started feeling ready it wasn’t quite right for the other. And when I quit my 9-5 in April, I found myself saying “I finally have my life back, I want to enjoy it for a while.”

But while Chris was gone, something shifted.

I noticed that so much of what was holding my back from wanting to start a family was fear. Fear that I may need to set aside my dreams & goals, fear that it’ll limit my freedom, fear that it’ll be hard, fear that job opportunities might have to be passed by.

In Chris’ absence I also reflected on how much we’ve tackled together.

And while it hasn’t all been easy, we’ve gotten so much better at the hard. We’re getting so much better at it, that it’s almost fun. I’m so in love with my husband and the life that we’re building together.

When Chris got in the car today, I told him that I think I’m ready to start a family. (Hey mom, sister, friends, uncles, aunts and cousins, yes, I said it out loud). He smiled and agreed - he felt ready too.

When we got home, Chris handed me a notebook - his climbing journal from his time on the mountain. He shared details of the trip, the challenges, the surprises, the people, the fun.

I flipped through, reading of his summit day success, the details of his rest days, & his final big climb to ski the Messner. He titled Day 11 “Accomplished,” and I read these words:

Resting today, hanging out in the sun, and recovering. I feel like we did what we came to do, that we accomplished the skiing and pushing of our bodies in a way shorter amount of time than I thought possible. I’m ready to come home. I’m reading “The Push” today, Tommy Caldwell’s book. He talks about his life and growing up with a dad that pushes him physically. As early as 8 years old he is climbing big walls in Yosemite and Colorado. It makes me excited to share this type of life with our future kids. I begin to realize that our lives, and how we live them, is up to us. With kids, businesses, family AND adventures. It doesn’t have to stop because of a child, in fact it can become better. This is truly the first time I’ve felt this way. I’m excited for our future, our family, our everlasting adventures. You are the light of my life and I am so lucky to have run into you on a dirty Moab trail. Love you to the moon. See you in a few days!”

So grateful that I get to venture through life with this man. That even when we’re thousands of miles apart we can remain connected. We can help one another be better. We can help each other move through our fears.

And I’m grateful for the reminder that while we can often find evidence to justify our fears, we can also find ways to transcend them.

Jennifer Hudak