This morning I’ve been thinking about identities, the Sierras, and my future.
Ya know, the usual.
This life of mine feels quite decadent these days. Nothing has changed really, that’s just how it goes in late spring. I haven’t been climbing all that much but every once in a while, I sneak away to the Sierras. I don’t have any money per se but I’ve been getting scrappy and somehow, I make it work. I also have a mom who lets me crash at her house whenever need be, which is pretty much the only reason why I can live this way.
It’s these mornings when I’m highly caffeinated and have a million things to be doing that I find myself in full on daydream mode. Of course, I’m thinking about the mountains. I think about the jagged peaks, the velvet meadows, the gem-colored lakes, the truest of blue skies, the sunsets whose light diffuses right into your core.
Not going climbing feels okay right now, well…kind of. Of course, I complain to anyone that will listen about how much I miss it, how much the Bay Area just DRAINS me, how I miss sport climbing, how I want to boulder, blahblahblah, cool story Georgie. But I think I’m dealing with the lack of climbing in my life better than usual because in just a few weeks I’m headed off to Squamish, British Columbia. Ever since I started climbing, during those unbearably hot summer afternoons spent in the sweaty bouldering cave at Diablo Rock Gym, I was constantly told that there were two places I HAD to go climbing outside. One of them was Bishop, and you all know I’ve checked that one off the list. The other–Squamish. Every summer I plan to make it up there as the last stop on my road trip, but I either run out of money or crash my van or do some other really smart, responsible thing that prevents it. But this summer, it’s happening, dates are set, and I am so ready to see this place that I’ve dreamed of for so many years.
I am also staying psyched with all of the trail running and the hopes of being able to do a big link up of a few peaks in Tuolumne before I leave for BC. I haven’t done something like this before but I’ve really been enjoying the training, the planning, the 20-hour days in the Sierras.
As always, I have been learning. I have been learning endlessly. Recently I keep getting reminded of how tightly I hold on to identities, to labels, to roles. Really, we all carry so many. Climber, writer, yoga teacher, sister, daughter, girlfriend, friend, the list goes on. And I can break those down even further, just take “climber” for example. In the past, I’ve said I’m a sport climber. Even further–I’m a sport climber who is bad at overhanging climbing, good at vertical face climbing. Right now I’m wearing the hat of “injured climber”.
Identities are complicated. They give us a sense of self-worth, which is good, and they give our egos something to act like, which is necessary (maybe?). But I think it is easy to “be” these things so much, so ferociously, that they shackle us.
I see this happening with climbers all the time. More so than any other sport, hobby, or profession I’ve seen. The identity of “climber” is one that consumes us. The label makes decisions for us, we endlessly present ourselves to the world in this way, it controls our lives. The climbing and dirtbag culture encourage us to go all in, to sell our houses in the suburbs, to live in a car, to spend all of our time and money and energy climbing rocks. This is good, the world is lacking people who are on fire like that, who are that passionate about something. The lifestyle lends itself to seeing this beautiful world, meeting the most interesting people, and having fun. We get to learn about ourselves in a very grand way.
But there is a part of me that sees this lifestyle as one that hinders us, one that prevents us from our full potential.
Being injured opened my eyes to this. I couldn’t crimp or pull, so I had to try new styles of climbing. And now I know how to climb cracks (kinda), I can even climb offwidths (lol), my go-to trail run that used to kick my ass now feels like a quick, mellow jaunt (depending on how much wine I drank the night before), and climbing 8,000 feet and hiking 12 miles in the same day seems attainable (we’ll see about that). My identity of “sport climber who boulders but only in Bishop and will follow easy traditional climbs” was holding me back from all of that.
That makes me wonder about all of the other roles I’ve given myself that is holding me back from living at full capacity. And I think, at the root of it all, that’s what we really want as climbers and as humans–to live a life that feels full.
Or at least that’s what I want. I want it all. Every last drop. I want to climb and write, I want to teach and practice yoga, I want to be a teacher, I want to be things I’ve never even been before, I want to be a librarian and a rock star, a mom and a pastry chef, a painter and a psychologist. There are few things I don’t want to be–I’ll pass on being a drug addict or someone who is really mean, but everything else seems pretty fun.
To wear these roles loosely is key, to stand in our identities with light feet, to know that these labels will inevitably be stripped from us, to be able to let them go, to enjoy them! To delight in the different ways they allow us to see the world, to let them give us joy and help us fall in love, for all the lessons they offer us, for their comforts, for giving us something to do on an idle Tuesday afternoon.
Something that I see in all climbers, especially the ones that commit to the lifestyle whole-heartedly, is a soul that is somehow unsettled. It is what makes the people of this sport so charming. But whatever it is that we’re seeking so fiercely through all of this climbing is already contained within us. It’s just a matter of revealing it, or maybe of knowing it’s there. You don’t need to be climbing and you definitely don’t need to be sending to find what it is that you’re hungry for.
Once we know this, we free ourselves. We may climb just as often, we may still live in the back of a van, but we no longer limit ourselves from our own greatness. Because we ARE great, each and every once of us, as stupid as that sounds. We are capable of so much more than our minds allow us to believe. We can all climb 5.14, run marathons, learn twelve languages, write books, travel the world, get a Masters, be satisfied with what we have. We can all be ridiculously good people who easily see joy and give away their love without any expectation of love in return.
Now I’m picturing myself saying all of this to one of my friends who is far more realistic than I am, and I think he would say that that’s simply not true, that some people really are hindered, that I’m just talking from a privileged white girl perspective. And maybe that’s true, but I’m not too sure…
I just think we should all stop living this storyline that we’ve given ourselves, because most of the time that story is a pretty pathetic one, and it’s full of limitations and reasons why we aren’t capable. Most of all, the story is just not true!
Summer is coming, we can all feel it. It’s the season when we naturally feel like blooming, like opening up wide, like being whoever it is that we are in a way that’s loud, extroverted, big. We have plans. We want movement and adventure. We are drawn to salty oceans and music and grilled pineapple. We feel brave. It’s a season of the senses, it’s sexy.
This is the perfect time to try on some different hats so to speak, to examine the ways in which our attachment to our identities is preventing us from all that we are capable of. To not cling or grasp, but instead use our identities as a means to shine light on where we are holding back, what can be released, yes–now that’s acting with less ego and a lot more heart.
And more than anything, just enjoy it all!