Tuesday, April 21, 2009

where I was before climbing

This is mostly in response to Sara's blog but it's definitely a recent theme in my life. Go visit her blog first so my references make more sense. :)

Let's see...where do I start?

Growing up I was a veritable nonathlete, though happily so. I played little league when I was seven (only girl on the team...missing my two front teeth in the team photo...). I went out for track when I was in seventh grade mostly because I knew my lack of hand-eye coordination probably wouldn't make me a good candidate for basketball or volleyball. I'll confess I tried out for cheer twice and was bummed I didn't make the team, though now I'm thankful I didn't. (ha. Sara, check out the sports similarities here...) On the track team, I chose to be a shotputter (all 4'10", 65 lbs of me) because they had to run fewer backstops and I HATED RUNNING. I still do, mostly. My lungs just don't handle it well. I quit the team after one meet for two reasons: I couldn't throw the shotput (I was PATHETIC. I could drop the darn thing.) and I got terrible shinsplints.

I did do gymnastics off and on from age seven through high school graduation. However, I was never a powerful gymnast, for reasons I found out later, which are also likely the same reasons I developed scoliosis as an adolescent. I was (and really still am) abnormally flexible. My physical therapist last year voiced suspicions that I might have joints that are just extra loose (hypermobile, Sara? it's a suspicion, though not a diagnosis in my case) and that could not only help explain my back problems but also all the joint pain I've experienced in the last ten years.

Anyways, I did a lot of choir and music-related things all through high school. I danced and was generally very academically-oriented. Again, NOT ATHLETIC. I went to college on an academic scholarship, starting as a Spanish major, then linguistics, and finally settled on speech pathology, which is what my degree is in. Through most of college, I spent time doing choir and dance performance classes and avoiding schoolwork with recreational reading. Somewhere around two years ago, a friend suggested going to the climbing gym.

So we started going to the gym. Maybe once a week, pretty regularly. I really started to like it. Then I landed funny on a bouldering pad and fractured my ankle in May of 2007. I had surgery in August of 2007, and didn't start climbing again until after January of 2008. Started back at square one.

I climbed on and off until fall of 2008, when I hiked Half Dome for the first time. On that trip, I realized that I was seeing Yosemite through completely different eyes. I wanted to be OUTSIDE. I wanted to be THAT girl. I took a rec class through my university that took me outdoor climbing for the first time last October. Hook, line, and sinker. I met people who would climb regularly, and I started climbing two or three times a week. In January 2009, I started competing locally through the CCS (I'm eligible as a grad student!) and that put me at the gym training and meeting awesome people all the time.

Also, sometime last fall I read High Infatuation, Steph Davis's awesome book. Her book fully turned on its head my perception of what it was to do what I wanted with my life (I read it in the midst of falling in love with climbing and applying for grad school and evaluating what adulthood was going to mean for me). To see that someone can do what they love and love what they do and be so gracious and open...hit me hard. So thanks, Steph!

I started to dream about climbing and exploring and I was constantly reading adventure and mountaineering literature. I went on a trip over spring break to visit a friend in Phoenix and another in Denver, and even as I'm flying over the desert, I'm seeing these mountains and I'm drawn to them in a way I can't explain.

Over the weekend, I was assigned the nickname "Granola". My mother, in all her Coldwater Creek-wearing, hair-done-every-eight-weeks-ness asked me when I was home a few weeks ago if I still shave my legs, which is her way of acknowledging that I'm kind of becoming someone she doesn't quite "get" but she's okay with it. (For the record, I do shave.) None of this is who I anticipated becoming.

So here I am now. CCS season is wrapping up. I've just come off ANOTHER weekend of climbing. I am constantly bruised and scraped and tired and HAPPY. I'm happy and fulfilled and balanced like I've never been before. I have every reason in the world to be less than balanced...I recently split with someone I've been dating more or less on-and-off since I was a freshman. I'm a first-semester grad student. I have NO IDEA what I'm supposed to do with my life after this. But life is GOOD.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I think I'll try defying gravity

Lately I've been thinking a lot about volition and independence. I've had to, over the last several months, determine the level of responsibility I'm willing to accept for what I choose to do with my life. And once again, climbing is helping me to process kinesthetically what I'm going through mentally.

Deciding to forgo my undergraduate course of study for a completely new program for my master's was a difficult choice to make. I struggled for some time with whether or not it was right. It has only been by the grace of God and his faithfulness to remind me in less-than-subtle ways that I oughtn't doubt him that I've realized I am exactly where I need to be right now. Coincidentally, I've been learning to crack climb. Now, I preface this with a disclaimer because I don't know that throwing oneself at a man-made fissure in the wall (save for the couple highballs I tried outside) at the gym legitimately counts as crack climbing, but I have certainly been fighting to keep skin attached to the back of my hands, so whatever that means...anyways. I've found that in crack climbing I have to be utterly present and I have to be deliberate and patient. I have to commit and I can't rush ahead. I can look ahead, I can anticipate, but I have to stay right where I am. And that is where it connects with "real life". I need to choose to be present and commit to where I am now.

Also, my recent foray into the world of highballing, however brief, ignited an interest in soloing and really exploring my capabilities, in spite of the fact that I am terrified of falling and thus of heights/exposure. I really really really like the idea of taking responsibility for myself, for my own accomplishments and shortcomings. This is part of the reason I'm so excited for my trip next week. For the first time, I have elected to travel not for anyone else (granted, I'm visiting friends, but the travel itself is solo) but because I want to. I had to commit to the trip, financially and time-wise, and consider the idea of going places I haven't been by myself. I need that right now. I need to feel capable and independent.

I can't help but be overcome with good, happy, loving feelings for my recent friends. I am terribly blessed by the new people in my life that are just as enthusiastic as I am, who will listen to me jabber nonstop about climbing because they love it too and they don't get tired of talking about it. It's like I can't believe I lived as long as I did without this huge part of my life. What did I do before this? What did I look forward to? What made me tick? It's all so new and big and enticing and enveloping...