Conquistadors of the Useless, or Pursuers of Passion?

 

“Don’t try to change the world, find something that you love
And do it every day
Do that for the rest of your life
And eventually, the world will change.”

––Growing Up, by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Millennials get a lot of flack.

We’re dubbed lazy, entitled, useless.

Our work ethic is questioned, our desire to live in vans reviled, and our love for the outdoors?

Useless.

But is it?

I’ve wrestled with this question late at night with wine in hand, mile 7 of a trail run, and over countless cups of coffee. It’s clear that our society, so centrically created around capitalism, values what we produce. In fact, so often, our value is determined solely on what we create.

In terms of money, it’s easy to define. As a society, we value wealth, and those of us who choose to claw our way up the corporate ladder will, usually, be rewarded for our time and dedication to the man. Whoever he is.

This idea is something I understand well. Working my way through secondary and higher education, I knew following a specific path would ensure my success. I knew how to do exactly what I was told to do.

I soon realized, though, like many of us do, that continuing to pursue that life would be empty. While the security of money is nice, and up to a certain threshold ($75,000 to be exact), can actually make you happier, sacrificing happiness to get to that point isn’t necessarily worth it.

So, when I chose to study creative writing in college, I knew I was setting myself up for societal failure.

 

When I decided I wanted to focus my efforts on writing in the outdoor industry, I laughed at my silly masochistic self.

Because if writing isn’t enough to sustain yourself, or prove your worth in society, playing outdoors is even worse.

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Desert trail and sandstone towers in Moab, UT

My feelings of uselessness increased the more time I spent outside. Days passed without a single thing to show. I hadn’t written anything. I hadn’t changed anyone’s life. I certainly hadn’t made any money.

But I felt so much happier.

What came next was an energy for preserving our wild and beautiful places. This energy evolved into passion, which included writing to government officials and advocating for public land.

It still made me wonder if spending all this time outside––climbing, skiing, running, and whatever else––was actually worthwhile.

As it appears, rock climbing is useless. And despite various attempts to justify the sport, many people continue to agree that nothing good comes from climbing rocks.

It might be true for some people. Maybe there is an entire branch of the climbing community that doesn’t see the value of public lands, refuses to attend crag clean-ups, and will go on their merry way never giving back to the community.

Beneath their inability and lack of desire to give back, however, lay the seeds of passion.

Although I don’t know many (if any) people in the climbing community who do not care about anything and anyone besides themselves, there is something within them that draws them to the sport. This passion, I believe, is exactly what the world needs.

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Anger, resentment, jealousy––these emotions often stem from an experience in our lives that told us we couldn’t. Whether it was society, our parents, our significant other, or a complete stranger. At some (or many) points, we decided to let someone see the fragile, brilliant dream inside of us, and they laughed, or doubted, or overran us with their sarcasm.

Along the way, so much of our passion died because of doubt.

What I love about the climbing community is that “no” isn’t a reasonable answer, and we continually rise to a challenge. We spend our summers waking before the sun, and our autumns climbing in headlamps, because we just want the thing to go. We spend days, weeks, months, sometimes years, climbing the same damn route because we’re too stubborn to admit defeat. We suffer flesh wounds, centipede bites, rock fall, numb toes, tendonitis, rolled ankles, broken ankles, whippers, and thirty-foot run-outs.

In climbing, we shape our character, we define what is and isn’t possible, and we refuse to back down.

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Red Rocks, NV

The same is true of any sport. It’s in the face of adversity that character and resiliency grow. So maybe, on the surface, climbing seems useless.

After all, we’re spending years of our lives hanging off the side of cliffs.

But when you look into the benefits the sport creates, and how the fissures splay throughout our society––the activists it creates, the stories of endurance and the human spirit it tells, the passion it inspires––it’s hard to say the sport is futile.

 

Motivational Monday: Make Goals not Resolutions

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‘Tis the season to reflect on the past year and look forward to the year ahead. Although the fresh start only physically comes by tacking a new calendar to the wall, I still get excited about the prospects of a new year. It is what you make it, right?

I’ve asked a few of my friends about their new years resolutions and most looked at me and laughed. This is the problem with resolutions—they urge us to join gyms, wake up at 5am, or start reading Infinite Jest or Gone With the Wind or Atlas Shrugged. And then slowly, without fail, we find ourselves back to sleeping in, choosing Netflix over the gym, and making it to the third paragraph of page 117 by the end of January.

Only 10% of people who make resolutions keep them, and here’s why: we expect them to fail. I say enough! Let’s go into 2017 with goals we intend to keep.

I recently read Grit by Angela Duckworth. She makes her case about setting an “end goal.” Yeah, she says, you need to have top-level goals, the crème-de-la-crème of all goals—your purpose, your mission, your passion. And then you need to work down from there. What would need to happen right before you achieved your end-all goal? And then what would happen before all those things need to happen? And so on until you retreat to where you currently are (for me that’s sitting in a coffee shop) 😉

I made some top-shelf goals for 2017. I want to send a 5.12d and project a 5.13. I want to finally run a half-marathon. I intend to publish and get paid for it. I want to learn basic navigational skills and complete my AIARE 1, WFR, and SPI. And my list of places to ski and climb is long, varied, and expansive. But before all those goals are smaller ones, like spending three hours a week writing. Researching and nailing down a training plan for climbing (and posting it to my blog). Making reservations for those different courses and hut trips and climbing excursions.

We can’t expect writing our goals down and talking about them to be enough. It’s a good start, but our lives won’t change because of it. Trust me, I continually learn that the hard way. Instead we need to realize what it is we want, and the teeny-tiny-baby-steps it’s going to take to get there.

Cheers to 2017, my friends! I hope it’s the most productive, actualizing year of your life!

 

New Year, New Tribe

The problem, ultimately, isn’t that there aren’t enough options in retail stores, it’s that there aren’t enough women getting out and charging.

As 2016 comes to an end (can you even believe it?), and we all start making our new years resolutions and thinking about the people we are now, versus the people we were a year ago, versus the people we want to become, I want to plant a seed.

I often hear and read about complaints from women in the outdoors that they want more options for gear. We are all frustrated with the lack of options for women’s technical gear, the discrepancy in options between men and women’s climbing shoes, and ultimately the variety of what we can purchase in the store to protect us all outside.

I get it.

The other day, though, I started thinking that we’ve been wanting a band-aid cure. We just want the outdoor companies to meet our needs (which is fair). We want to feel represented and to have them recognize that woman can, and do, charge just as hard as men. I’m not here to belittle that. AT ALL. We woman are powerhouses and we have come so far in the outdoor industry. Kudos to us.

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Beyond that, we’re living in an incredible time where organizations like SheJumps, And She’s Dope Too, Bold Betties, She Shreds Co, Chicks with Picks (and on and on and on) are hosting meet-ups, and planning rendezvous’, and organizing all women’s AIARE courses.

Because of this, I think the answer and the push to getting more technical gear for women is in the works. From a marketing and monetary stand point, for a long time it didn’t make sense to stock the floor with technical gear for women. Think about it, whatever REI puts on the floor is a direct representation of their customers wants/needs. So yeah, there is a growing number of us who want/need a bigger variety of technical gear, but there are also a lot of women who don’t need alpine bibs or expedition mitts.

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Here’s what I’m saying: in 2017 we need to be more vigilant in inviting our friends outside. The problem, ultimately, isn’t that there aren’t enough options in retail stores, it’s that there aren’t enough women getting out and charging. We need more women doing more awesome things in the outdoors. The easiest and best way to do this is to find your tribe of badass woman and hit the trails and crags and slopes, and encourage them (as they’ll encourage you) to challenge themselves–to climb the harder route, to ski the black diamond, to spend five days in the wilderness. Since I moved to Salt Lake City, I’ve met so many woman (most who also just moved here) that want to get outside, but don’t know where to start. It’s so easy and fun and exciting to invite someone along on your adventure. My climbing gym gives me a free pass every month, and it’s usually spent introducing someone to climbing.

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So go ahead, write it on your list of resolutions in 2017. Let this next year be a year that women continue to encourage other women to get outside, face their demons, and overcome challenges. We’ll all be the better for it.

Power of Pink

I used to hate pink. Loathed it. I wanted people to know I could play around in the dirt, that I rarely wore make-up, and could only throw my hair into a high pony. I didn’t want people confusing me as the “girly” type.

When I started doing more outside, and realized the deficit between men and women in the outdoors, I decided I wanted to stand out. I wanted people to know that I was a woman, and hell yeah I was capable of charging.

The outdoor industry has consistently been plagued with the “pink-it-and-shrink-it,” agenda, which definitely plays into all the pink-shaming. Let’s be honest, how many more items do we need in our closet that are tickle-me-pink or magenta or peach or rose or coral?

Fortunately we’ve come a long way for female clothing and gear. Only a few decades ago women were wearing men’s clothes and making it work—so there’s definitely something to be said for where we are now and the choices we have.

About a year ago I bought the women’s version of the solution which have a pink camo pattern on them. They were my first real aggressive shoe, and I bought them at a time when I was climbing exceptionally harder than I had in my climbing career.

Not long after, I purchased a pair of pink Patagonia climbing capris, and then a pink harness. I bought more clothes with bright colors, and grew more confident every time I roped up.

Because here’s the thing—every time I head out to the crag I’m outnumbered three or four to one. I see groups of men climbing together, but rarely groups of women. I’m most of the time climbing with my husband and his buddies. I tweak out with every lady that passes with an over-eager smile as if to say: be my friend, we’re in this together.

Whenever I head out, I’m conscious about what I wear because it’s a way to prove there are ladies getting out and crushing every single day. I want people to look up and see me trying hard and thinking, damn, that’s a girl leading that?

That’s right. Because who run the world?

Girls.