The following is an unedited, stream-of-consciousness personal journal used to experiment with different subjects outside of assignments and to practice free-writing. It shouldn't (at all) be viewed as a portfolio of polished work.

To see examples of my professional writing, please visit ginabegin.contently.com. For photography, please visit eyeem.com/u/ginabegin or my Instagram channel @ginabegin.

Work Until it Happens: (Even Major) Setbacks Can't Keep You Down


Never Give Up: A post about getting past major setbacks & keeping on. By @ginabegin
My 1st adventure back.
Photo: Brent Malysh

I don't always have pretty things to say. Forgive me.

2014 has seen a smile on my face for the majority of it. It wasn't fake; I felt it in my soul. But at the original time of this writing (time has since passed), I broke.

. . . 

I spent over 2.5 years on the road, living in my car, going where I wanted. Time was spent skiing, climbing, mountain biking, and hiking; the latter if there was nothing else to do. 

If I had to label what I would call the perfect childhood vacation, this was it. 

Except, unlike childhood, I had to make ends meet. It wasn't easy, but I did my best to find internet connections so I could record personal perceptions of my journey and, from that, gather enough gas money to take me to the next location. 

Somehow, it worked. So I kept writing and traveling and living. My "work," as I was fond of calling it, required that I develop a very minimalistic lifestyle — but I was happy.

Things change and that's okay. We stretch, pull apart, then learn how to become whole again because of it. We adapt. But 2014 chimed in and I watched as the plans I had lined up — outdoor skill courses, going back to college, additional income I thought I could count on — fell almost in sync with the New Year's ball dropping over Times Square.

January 10, 2014: Only 22 days of skiing into the season, a ski accident ripped the ligaments apart in my right knee, somehow managing to bruise the bone marrow in the process (I'm still not clear on how that occurs). Just 3 days shy of my lead ice climbing course, 4 days before my on-snow training to recertify as a PSIA Level II Instructor, and 2 days before getting my car fixed (for which I'd been saving since October), I was suddenly confined to a couch with no answers on when or how I'd be back on my feet. 

This was the first time I actually had the money to put major plans into motion in my life — things I'd been saving to do for as long as I loved the outdoors — and then, this. 

My winter plans of traveling, learning new skills, and testing them out with willing friends slammed into a brick wall. My car repair savings were forked over to cover health insurance premiums. I helplessly watched as my account dwindled each month without the income I gathered from adventure writing.

After all, what adventure could I write about from a couch?  

Yet, there was optimism. I felt in my insurance-paying American heart that things were going to be taken care of soon enough. I mean, the injury was somewhat standard for skiers, especially females, and the only reason I wasn't up and walking already was due to a misdiagnosis during my initial exam at Canyons resort. I was certain that only a couple of weeks and a few obstacles (like two surgeries) stood between me and my normal life. 

Oh, the optimistic trust of youth.

105 days later: My crutches were finally taken away, but only after the discovery that my physical therapist had somehow forgotten to tell me, a few weeks prior, that I was ready to walk and should be well into a biking program by this point. Thus, when the doctor saw me that day for the first time since my initial surgery in March, he almost seemed accusatory of my using crutches. 

"No one told me," was my baffled reply. 

I hobbled out of his office, feeling an incredible amount of frustration overtake me. I wasn't some sloth who lived her life on the couch; if I had been, my not being able to walk would have made little difference. But lack of mobility changed my entire world. I couldn't work. I couldn't keep my physical strength up. And mentally, well, that strength was failing as well. 

Anger hadn't yet inflicted my mind, but maybe it should have. 

As I left the office, I came face to face with my physical therapist who seemed to have a strangely "coincidental" epiphany that it was time for me to start walking. My crutches were snatched from me and in that harsh transition from crutching to bearing my own weight, I was forced to regain the skills that once seemed as natural as breathing. Fear of my knee collapsing under my own body terrified me for days as I worked, alone, to make my way up stairs and through everyday normalcies, like showering — which frightened me much more than the mountains I've met in my life.

But it dawned on me that walking meant I could drive, so I sucked it up and walked. As soon as I could make it upstairs without slamming into a wall (this happened), I sat behind the wheel of my car for the first time in much too long. 114 days, to be exact.

It felt like home. 

That is, until I put it in drive and began to inch from the safety of the driveway toward the intersecting road. Suddenly, I became the 16 year old who was motoring all alone for the first time. 

Funny how only a few months of being out of a routine can radically increase the challenge of simple tasks. 

As I drove around the block a few times in the spring rain, testing my ability to move my leg in the most ridiculous ways — just in case a sudden driving maneuver required it — I immediately knew my next drive would take me to Canada. I'd been stationary and within 4 walls for almost 4 months; I was going to take full advantage of a limited window of freedom before a second surgery confined me to what had become a holding cell.

Then the crash came. Not to my car, but to my world. Two days before I was set to refresh my eyes with a view of the beloved open road and northern lands, the news came that yet another company I wrote for was slashing its payments to writers, making four times the same news had come in two months. It totaled a loss of 3/4 of my monthly freelancing income.

And my freelancing income is all I have.

It is what pays for my medical bills; to be able to walk again — eventually even normally. It is what would pay for my car to be fixed — what I had just saved enough for just before my knee got taken out. It is what was going to pay for me to move into a place and away from sleeping on a love seat in a living room or in the reclined front seat of my car. It is what was going to get me to Canada and to the land that I love.

And yet, time after time, 2014 was finding a way to stall my progress. A shoulder injury & loss of job occurred on the threshold of, and spilled over into, 2014. The knee injury & losing the ability to walk came just 10 days into the new year. Losing someone dear to me happened on the 12th. In March, there was the con artist who moved in where I was living and ran off with my things, including the pain medication I took when I woke up nightly at midnight with throbbing pains shooting through my knee. And then the least of my concerns: my clients' budgets being cut over the course of it all. 

But the year still found me smiling. "Life can be so crazy," I laughed at every instance.

When the final news of two writing gigs being slashed came within days of each other, I stopped laughing. 

And then the anger inflicted my mind and stung my eyes. 

. . . 

It's been three months since I sat down and wrote my reflections above. I tweaked it only to explain that it was written in a different time, to help explain the mindset and challenges that a small-time adventure writer can face in the valleys between the peaks. It's not always the glamor you see in the photos we post or the excitement we portray through exclamation marks and smiling emoticons littering our social media dialogue. 

Seven months later, I still don't have a leg that functions properly. But two weeks ago I limped beside a very patient boyfriend on my first hike. My eyes couldn't rest the entire time as they darted from alpine granite to rock-floured lakes, feeding the famine they'd withstood for months. 

Seven months later, I'm still missing an ACL and waiting to be cleared for surgery. But I'm in Canada and sleeping in my own bed, living independently in a place where the four walls are broken by windows filled with green peaks and sweet air. 

Seven months later, I'm still paying U.S. health insurance I'm being told I can't use. But I'm getting closer to a Canadian citizen's right to healthcare, where, no matter what they say just south of the border about the healthcare up here, I would never have had to pay so much money to wait so long. 

Soon, I'll never have to worry about that again.

Seven months later, I'm working with new and returning clients doing freelance writing and marketing work, opportunities that came knocking just a month after I lost my former income. These things have led to having a couple of pieces published by the Huffington Post and an opportunity to write for British Columbia's tourism board, amongst other happy chances to grab my dream.

Seven months later, I'm surrounded by wild, mysterious mountains and beautiful, friendly people, both here in Canada and remotely — all supporting me until my adventure resumes. 

In a way, it never stopped.

In spite of it being one of the most difficult periods of my life, I was able to reach goals of becoming independent. And because of all of this, I still have optimism.

(So take that, 2014.)

10 comments:

  1. You're amazing. The resilience and optimism you have is so inspiring, as is your ever-morphing career and the adventures and life you share with the world. Go get 'em, Gina... Fists in the air and eyes wide open. No matter what, everything you need lies within you. Now you know that even more and you're telling all of us. Love you, girl.

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    1. Fist pump back to the girl who serves to inspire those around her. Glad you're part of my crew, Amanda. <3

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  2. Beautiful post. The lows in life only make the highs that much sweeter. Health insurance stinks. Bottom line. Americans are just jealous of Canadians...that's why we bitch all the time:)

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    1. Thanks. :) Life is all one big ol' adventure. I love that quote that says "When something goes wrong in your life, just yell 'Plot twist!'" ha ha. And yes, insurance: I don't mind paying for it when I can use it, but when I can't, c'mon now. That doesn't really make sense...

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  3. To Anonymous who will probably check back to see if I posted their comment: No, you're right, I didn't. However, you're not right that it was because I can't take criticism or was scared. Here, I'm gonna go ahead and put it up for you, in a more civilized tone:

    "Stop whining and get a job."

    I guess you work in an office and expect that is what the definition of a job is since you clearly don't think writing is a job. That's fine. Just understand that many others DO think it's a job. We can agree to disagree. (See how civilly we can discuss things, Anonymous?)

    Secondly, it is a bit hard to get a job, as you define it, when you can't drive to work, let alone walk. Maybe you didn't put that together from the mentions of not being able to drive, but I'm sure you now understand.

    Next, I'm not sure where the whining is since I showed how great life is despite things not always going right, but I suppose you don't like any thoughts that might not be filled with sparkles and such. I did give a warning in the first sentence of this post to any who might not want to read something that wasn't filled with flowers. Maybe you missed that part, so I forgive you.

    Lastly, check the URL. See my name? Oh, that's right; it's my site. I promise not to ever come to your site and complain, Anonymous (if you have one), since it appears you can't handle little upsets in life. I'm putting that idea together from not only your adverse reaction to humans having a bad day, but also from not being brave enough to use your real name.

    But thanks for getting my visitor numbers up, though!

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    1. And tip for next time: Leave out the cussing and taking my Lord's name in vain and I'll happily publish. Have a great day!

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  4. Evidently too, that ANONYMOUS hasn't been around to see you writing around the clock-unable to sleep to meet deadlines, not being with friends when they're getting together because you want to tweak the articles, or not being able to visit with family for periods of time-even during holidays. Also, I wonder if that ANONYMOUS has ever read a magazine or areticle or if so, must think they come right off without any planning, research, site-check, interviews. .. ignorance and judgemental ranting. No name-shouldn't publish-coward.

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    1. Some people can only see things from their world view. It's a shame; they clearly think we should all be fortunate to have the same well-paying job as they apparently have. How nice to have one that easily pays for things.

      They seemingly can not take into account that people get laid off and that some of those people might choose to work as a self-employed person instead of going on welfare. Unfortunately, the path of a self-employed person isn't magically smooth (Anonymous might be confused by that since a paycheck probably appears like clockwork every two weeks for them).

      Things are clearly difficult for Anonymous to understand since s/he has apparently not bothered to think outside his/her own fortunate situation. However, I feel like the much more fortunate person for having so many cool kids around me who are positive and supportive; Anonymous must be missing that in their life or they wouldn't feel the need to pick on others.

      Poor Anonymous.

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  5. Gina, my situation hasn't been quite as extreme, but I can certainly relate. Thanks for taking the time to write this. I recently wrote about my situation and found it to be very therapeutic (over on adventurousparents.com). It's amazing how much our smiles can endure. But sometimes we just need to give in to the disappointments. I was sorry to hear about your experience with your physio. One thing I've been learning is that we really need to advocate for our own health. I trust the practitioners I work with to a degree, but have been wary of 'the system.' I hope you can gain access to our benefits here in Canada. We have a lot to be thankful for with our healthcare system. Wishing you all the best as you continue to recover. And I look forward to whatever stories you come out with next!

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  6. I'm experiencing some serious sympathy knee pain after reading this! I just came across it and had to thank you for sharing your emotion. It's hard to describe the raw frustration that accompanies sports related injuries (especially for us females athletes) and I think you did the feelings justice here. Glad to hear you are on the mend and hope your recovery since has gone smoothly.

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