At the University of Ottawa I had a Human Kinetics professor named Sean Egan. I had him for a course on health and wellness and it required me to attend an activity lab early on Friday mornings. As much as I enjoyed working out, doing so after a Thursday night out wasn’t what I called fun.
*photo credit to 2005 Kanatek Everest Expedition
I have the saying “Everyday in every way I’m getting better and better” burned in my memory (because I’m sure he said that many times) but I can also remember swimming laps and he called out to me “Drowning yet?” I felt like I was and promptly labelled him an arsehole (in my mind, of course.) I also recall him commenting to the class one day how great it was to see budding relationships taking place in his lecture hall as the guy I suspected of crushing on me whispered to me all class. I felt like he kept his eye on me and pushed me too much. I did not really enjoy Sean Egan at all.
Until I saw his face on the news as I was in an airport in 2005. I saw that he had died on an Everest expedition and this caused me to reflect on him and how I felt about him. And in searching for a photo of him tonight, I stumbled across a series of videos of him, and to be honest, I’m in tears typing this.
Sean was 63 when he died on Everest. He died in pursuit of a goal many of us find impossible. I remember him telling us how he cycled at least an hour to work everyday, only to discover he had cycled from Vancouver to Ottawa before and walked something like 10 days without food once. He embodied an active lifestyle and dying on Everest was the perfect death for this man.
I started out writing this post because I have been able to look back at him pushing me as a positive experience instead of a borderline bullying one. Whenever I start a race I can hear him in his Irish accent, encouraging me to be better than last time. When I breathe through a difficult pose in yoga, I know he taught me the importance of that mind-body connection that gets me through my practice. I am truly learning what it means to have that mind-body connection and all of that started with him.
I’m now writing this post because I discovered that Sean left a legacy for everyone, not just me. A film maker, Elia Saikaly, has created a web series of videos honouring Sean’s legacy. One such video includes clips of Sean in his tent giving us little messages and tidbits of wisdom. It shocked me to see him and hear his voice, but the words he spoke hit me harder than I ever expected: “live the present…it’s no good worrying..only the fit survive…you are the only person who can change you…” AIM HIGHER was his mantra: he climbed Everest at the age of 63 and believed that age shouldn’t limit your goals.
So it turns out Sean wasn’t done pushing me! Here he is, right now, pushing me from the great beyond! I’m in the midst of a journey of self-discovery through fitness and here he is saying exactly what I need to hear on a Tuesday night in my little house in Vancouver Island. His left his life on Everest 13 years ago but his legacy truly does continue on. This post is proof.
Who pushes you to aim higher?
Check out Elia’s story.