But who am I, really?
I’m glad you asked. But the truth is, I’m a bit of an (undeniably messy, but always optimistic) work-in-progress. My name is Madeline Millsip, and I was born and raised in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. Lately, I’ve obtained an unexpected but timely affirmation of self—an undeniable, unshakable confidence that I am brave, courageous, audacious, honest, gritty, and witty. And I am slowly learning the power of simply leaning into “who I am” at this present moment, instead of being caught up in where I’ve been and what’s to come.
But, in case you’d also like to know where I’ve been and what I’ve done:
I grew up immersed in the outdoors, carefully nestled in between and enthralled by the warm, welcoming embrace of the ocean and the mountains. As a result, the outdoors is now my place of refuge, reflection, and release—the place where I always stumble-upon or scrounge-up wholehearted happiness. I originally cultivated this love as an avid ocean kayaker (building my own boat, at age 13!), weaving ocean-time into my jam-packed schedule as a competitive figure skater, varsity wrestler, and business-student-turned-Senior Analyst at a Vancouver-based athletic apparel retailer. Lately, though, I find myself enveloped by the stillness and sanctuary of the outdoors as a trail runner, ultramarathoner, and adventure touring motorcyclist.
And, how did I get here?
In March 2019, my 21-year-old little sister, Rachel, took her life after her courageous, hard-fought battle learning to live with Bipolar Type I.
Her beautiful life and soul was, and is, iridescent. She possessed a deeply authentic beauty—one that humbles you to the core, one that fills you to the brim on the darkest of days, one that you, deeply and regrettably, did not take the time to return to her ten-fold.
If our family can label any piece of our horrific tragedy as ‘fortunate’, it is that my sister left behind 15 journals from her 5-year battle. These poetry-, observation-, and insight-filled journals contain a depth of candid creativity that makes you pause. That makes you soak in the world through a lens of unadulterated appreciation. We pour ourselves over these journals, continuing to learn intricate details about my sister long after her body has been laid to rest—a gift that, only now, I can begin to cherish.
Rachel’s journals give the impression that there are enough of her words to fill our lifetime. But I understand that this is only blissful, protect-myself-now-deal-with-it-later ignorance. One day, her words will run dry. There will be no more pages to turn, no new words to share. This gut-wrenching reality is disheartening, not only for myself, my family, and the dear friends she left behind, but for the world—a world that dealt her a darkness so deep that it unknowingly condemned itself to live on without her.
Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
I am now trudging forward, learning to live within my new reality and beginning to dabble my toes into the ‘making meaning’ phase of my grief journey. In this, Rachel has taught me that when we leave, all that remains is our finite collection of stories. The stories that will make our loved ones full-stomach-laugh and wailing-cry. The ones they will cherish and desperately hold on to. The ones that will be their glimmer of light in a sea of darkness when our inevitable impermanence becomes a reality.
So here it goes. This is my collection of stories. The glorious ups. The gut-wrenching downs. All packaged up—but without a bow. Because, in the words of my sister, “I believe that our weaknesses and our vulnerabilities are what can connect us the most. And in doing so, they become our greatest assets. The moral of our own personal stories.”
ADVENTURES ON THE HORIZON
MOTORCYCLING: Vancouver to Prince George || 1,800 KM, 10 Days | Jul 2021
TRAIL RUNNING: TranSelkirks, BC || 160 KM, 5 Days | Aug 2021
TRAIL RUNNING: Whistler Alpine Meadows, BC || 55 KM, 1 Day | Sep 2021
MOTORCYCLING: Vancouver to Alaska || 6 Weeks | Summer 2022
DONE AND DUSTED
MOTORCYCLING: Chilcotin-Kootenay Loop, BC || 1,450 KM, 9 Days | Jul 2020
FASTPACKING: Southern Chilcotin Mountains, BC || 85 KM, 3 Days | Jul 2020
TRAIL RUNNING: The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica || 175 KM, 5 Days | Feb 2020
TRAIL RUNNING: The Golden Ultra, BC || 85 KM, 3 Days | Sep 2019
FASTPACKING: West Coast Trail, BC || 75 KM, 4 Days | Jun 2019
TRAIL RUNNING: Run Like A Girl Marathon, BC || 42 KM | Jun 2019
FASTPACKING: Sunshine Coast Trail, BC || 180 KM, 8 Days | May 2019
TRAIL RUNNING: Orcas Island Marathon, WA || 45 KM | May 2019
TRAIL RUNNING: Run Like A Girl Marathon, BC || 42 KM | June 2018
BIKEPACKING: Jasper, AB to Vancouver, BC || 1,200 KM, 18 Days | Aug 2016
KAYAKING: The Broken Group || Jul 2008
KAYAKING: Building My Bear Mountain Magic || 10 Months | 2007-08
KAYAKING: The Deer Group || Jul 2007
KAYAKING: The Bowron Lakes || 100 KM, 12 Days | Jul 2006