I know that everyone says that getting lost is a part of the journey, but I never really gave much thought to what happens once you start finding yourself. When I was a kid, I had a hard time picturing my life past the age of twenty-one. I bumbled along my twenties, constantly going back and forth between being irrationally afraid of everything to fearlessly immersing myself. Somewhere in between, rock climbing found me and I immersed myself in that, too.
A few months back, I finally met Ian King. He’d met a mutual Gunks friend of ours and said, “Yeah, he told me you found rock climbing and you just took off. Got lost.”
I’d never really thought about it that way, either, but it’s true in every sense. I’ve gotten really good at running away from myself. I could make it a professional career if I wanted to. And then, to top it off, I allowed the climbing lifestyle to support this unhealthy trait of mine more than any other.
And despite every effort to not hurt the people in my life, I still leave for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. I don’t come home for the holidays. Most times, I don’t even call.
Have you ever heard the expression “Go beyond love”? I know what people might say about me; maybe I AM a little obsessed. Passion and obsession go hand in hand—you need both of these things to get to where you’re going. They are both the fire that you use to make your dreams happen. — I am not a dirtbag
What I’ve now learned is that passion can open doors while obsession will close them, if you aren’t careful. Both motivate me to take risks and step outside of the conventional norms to achieve my dreams, but one will continuously pull me to the edge and the other will push me; one builds relationships and the other inhibits them.
I’ve been described as a passionate climber, but I think up until this point, I was both passionate and obsessive. To only fly by the seat of one’s pants always meant coming and going, only to stay for a short period of time. Long enough to make a connection but never enough time to maintain a friendship. I used to think that it would take someone or something extraordinarily special to make me want to stay in one place, and eventually I started believing that nothing would actually convince me.
Maybe I didn’t want to be convinced.
I understood that there was a difference between being found and finding yourself, but I didn’t know how people did it. How do you just know who you are? How do you know what kind of person to become when there is so much re-writing to do? I remember when I had to drive back from the New River Gorge for the first time alone, and I was upset so I called Scott Albright. He told me that I should get used to the drive, and I was confused.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
I think he saw it in me before anybody else did. He knew that it would happen again and again—and voluntarily. And I drove alone through starless nights for (what seemed like at the time) endless days. I wasn’t just driving to destinations, but chasing a spark. I was looking for connections, conversations full of belly laughs, conversations that you remember because you said things that mattered.
I was obsessed with climbing but my life still needed meaningful contrasts—honesty, humility, and accountability are all a part of the dynamic experience of feeling alive. And to embrace feeling shamelessly alive, I’d adopted the “just say yes” motto. I’ve echoed the word “yes” a hundred times because saying it forces me to be present. Taking chances, no matter the outcome, means you’ve realized on some level that you only live once to be able to make these kinds of choices.
But all choices have consequences, I’ve come to accept. Different paths, different outcomes.
It isn’t as simple as following step A to step B, but getting lost isn’t as fatal as people might think. There is no such thing as a wrong turn; I never want to reach a point in my life where I’m suddenly making all of the right ones. All I know is that it takes a while to figure out what you’re all about, and then it takes some time to figure what other people are about, too. If you’re lucky, you meet a handful of good people along the way (and if you’re even luckier, they like to climb the same things you like and will give you a belay.)
I am constantly finding myself on and back off of the beaten path. After finally starting to feel at peace with my move to Colorado, I accepted an offer to travel out of the country for an entire month. This is the first time I made a decision based solely on passion instead of my obsession with rock climbing. I do it because I still have things I need to discover about myself, and because there are parts of the world that I need to see as well. I do it because I know that when I come back, I will be ready to start working on a life that fulfills the parts of me that rock climbing cannot.
Climbing is a desire, but it’s not my purpose; I’m still figuring that part out. Falling into obsession and getting lost isn’t what defines us. How many times we will seek a way back onto path is what defines us. And love—love will always make the journey worthwhile.