“Either”

Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” That quote is tattooed on one of my friend’s arms. While it will stick with him in a different sense than it will stick with me, it remains all the same.

Generally speaking, I like that quote. It’s inspiring. But right now, as I’m sitting here on the couch and deciding what to do with myself, it would be easy to cast myself on the “nothing” end of the spectrum.

I don’t think that’s accurate.

When I scroll through my social media feeds — Instagram in particular — I’m genuinely excited to see what other people are doing. It’s one daring adventure after another. Truthfully, I’m also a little jealous of all of the adventures I’m not having. I think we all do this from time to time.

My point, in all of this, is that life is not “either” a daring adventure or nothing at all. Sometimes, life is a daring adventure. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like much of an adventure at all. In order to have mountains, there must be valleys, too.

On being brave

Besides lead falls, there are other things I’m afraid of.

Like allowing myself to shed a frustrated tear when a boulder problem repeatedly shuts me down.

Like telling people passing through the shop that yeah, I work in a climbing shop but I really don’t climb that hard (yet.)

Like telling people that I love that I can’t be there with them because I have to selfishly pursue something as trivial as repeatedly scaling rock faces.

Like committing to a career and suffering through days behind a desk when I could be outside and doing what I love.

Climbing is an art form and lifestyle that repeatedly shoves fear in your face. It springs itself upon you and you have to decide what you’re going to do with it: listen to it and back down, ease off and choose a safer alternative? Or do you quell it and prove to yourself that you are capable, competent and strong?

I’m a climber. I’m not a particularly strong or brave climber, but goddamn it, I’ve got a little fight in me.

Happiness

Happiness is not:

A van. A man. A place. A time. A grade. A thing.

Happiness is carefully saving your money, investing your time and energy into building out your van so that you can comfortably live your dream for weeks on end.

Happiness is trusting a man to let you live your dream and come back to him when you’re ready. Happiness is recognizing that he’s sad to see you go, but happy to see you chase your dreams.

Happiness is following your heart to a new home, new homies and a new landscape hundreds of miles from where you grew up and feeling accepted, welcome, ready to relax and enjoy what life has to offer.

Happiness is recognizing that you’re on a lifelong journey with highs, lows, summits and valleys. Happiness is accepting where and who you are along each step of the way.

Happiness is recognizing that you’ve worked really hard to lead 10+, recognizing that grades are irrelevant and joy is the real reason why you do what you do.

Happiness is a state of mind.

 

Smith Update No. 2

Where do I even begin?

I guess I’d like to start by saying a lot has changed since Smith Update No. 1. Bear with me while I wrangle the following ideas into sentences and paragraphs… You might be in for a disjointed, bumpy ride.

My perspective has changed dramatically. When I pulled into Terrebonne, I felt like somewhat of a hotshot because I’d left behind a stable, comfortable job to pursue something I regarded as bold, brave and different (**more on this in the footnotes.) The part of me that appreciates my degree, career aspirations and future was concerned that I was making a reckless and self-indulgent move. But that part of me has since been calmed. For now, I simply pour beers, make coffees and sell people climbing gear.

In the last month, I’ve shared some of the highlights on social media. My Instagram, @pnwclimbergirl, has grown by a few hundred followers. And a month ago, I would’ve been stoked on that. But, like I said, my perspective has changed. My only goals with social media for the time being are to share photos of this place I’ve fallen in love with and keep up with the people that I care about. #idontgiveashitanymore

People walk into and out of my life hour by hour, day by day, week by week. I believe that I’ve built a few relationships that I will carry back with me when I eventually return to Washington; there are also some that will burn brightly and flicker out. (When I said people, I really meant to say climbers.) With each climber that I talk to, I hear a new story, slang term or perspective on this absurd activity that has so completely arrested my attention. I form instant connections with these people because they’re caught up in it, too. In short, I’ve learned a lot.

Here’s the first disjointed thought I’m going to throw at you: I have the utmost respect for people who simultaneously balance a passion for climbing with a professional career, among other things. There’s a really great video about Audrey Sniezek on the balance.

Second disjointed thought: I’m discovering my limitations in what I can do with my time, energies and resources. Truthfully, all I want to do is climb and sustain myself so that I can continue to climb. That’s not so much to ask, right? (Maybe those two thoughts aren’t so disjointed, after all.)

Forgive me if this reads a bit like a self-help book — this is me trying to help myself right now — but I’m just going to tell you like it is:

Don’t be an idiot and listen too intently to peoples’ assessments, judgements and expectations of you. If you’re constantly bound by what you think you should be doing — whether that comes in the form of obligatory relationships, volunteerism and other improvements to your resume, shitty jobs, whatever — just stop already! You’re only going to have yourself to blame in the end. I’d rather be responsible for my most audacious failures than my own misery sourced from endless what-if’s.

 

 

Like it is cont’d: Know your worth. I’ve recently plucked myself from a cycle of giving too much and getting too little while constantly feeling overextended, drained and bad about myself for it. Knowing your worth isn’t about regarding yourself as a hotshot (like I mentioned in the second paragraph); instead its knowing the extent to which you can share your time and talents. It’s more about quality time instead of the quantity of demands on your time.

And I think that’s about all I have to say right now. Hopefully that wasn’t too clunky.

** By no means is picking up, moving to a climbing area and trying to make it happen for yourself “bold, brave and different.” There are lots of people that do this with varying measures of success. And I don’t mean to sound salty, it’s just the reality of the situation. I’m glad I did it and would encourage anyone considering the change to leap forth into the unknown.

The #1 Rule

There are lots of golden rules out there, mantras to live by or whatever you want to call it. But I’d love to share with you my number one rule — it’s pretty simple — don’t be a dick.

I saw this beautiful couple out today projecting 12s. While they weren’t climbing the hard routes clean, they were definitely the only ones to even bother with the tough stuff.

Besides my small party of four, there were a few other groups out there (a small crag about 2 hours from Smith.) We all watched in awe as the guy took a burn and then his girl partner would do the same. Pretty impressive.

During our precious morning window of climbable temperatures (it got up to 95°F,) I had to return to the car not once… but twice. And both times, I walked past the crusher couple. The second time I walked by, the guy made a snide remark about my car laps. I laughed and kept my head down, not having much to say in response. But immediately, any sense of awe or respect I had for the couple dried up.

You could say that I’m over thinking it or that maybe that guy is just an asshole; but realistically, the climbing community is pretty small. Climbing — for me anyways — is much more than climbing hard routes, leading, redpointing, being a hardened alpinist, etc. If you’re going to climb and you’re going to climb hard, you’re going to see some of the same faces around. Even if you’re way cooler than me because you just sent a gnarly overhung 12, don’t be a dick.

I hope that as I grow into my abilities, climb harder and go further in my climbing career, I remain humble, encouraging and stoked. And if you’ve read this whole post, I hope you do the same (climbing or otherwise.)