I’ve been learning how to grow up and rebelling against it since I took my first breath. I’ve found the process to be a tricky, cyclical beast. It’s always ten steps forward until I find myself right back at the traffic circle I thought I had jetted away from at top speeds.
But unlike Peter Pan, I am not quite sure that I don’t want to grow up. I’ve been learning, forgetting, and relearning the joys of doing dishes every day (every day! this is too much!), keeping my floor clean enough that I can walk on it happily without socks, and having a job in a field that I like (a shocking concept).
And in this process, I often find myself wondering, ‘what do I want to do next?’ and ‘what trajectory am I on?’ Last night was no exception. Avry and I were listening to the good ole Dixie Chicks, at my request (of course), and it struck me: being outdoors and dirty has saved my life more than once.
I wanna walk and not run
I wanna skip and not fall
I wanna look at the horizon
And not see a building standing tall
I wanna be the only one
For miles and miles
I remember being a tiny, pale little shrimp of a thing (so much so that one of my nicknames was “Shrimpy”). I hid inside books and tried to be as little a part of life as humanly possible.
Then my parents dragged me outside and threw me into the incredible adventure of life at a horse barn. Urban Stables, with its mud, animals, other shrimp, and horses (there isn’t an animal in the world that can replace a horse as a best friend), took me out of my fantasy world and led me straight into the heart of real life.
Getting chucked off mad, mean ponies, donkeys, horses, goats, and pigs, taught me a thing or two about picking myself up and getting right back on. Learning to groom animals and fix up cuts and scrapes on them and me showed me how to care for others (not, unfortunately, a natural part of my logic-focused personality). And throwing my body around while catching a rogue animal or holding it still to let your horse carry you forward, let me learn what exactly my body can do.
Somewhere during high school something else gripped me. I found that drinking was way more powerful than books to take me away from reality. In my quest for oblivion I picked up drugs, boys, and melancholy too. Because really, there’s nothing like a good long self-obsessive mope with a side of self destructive behavior to take you out of the real world (ah the good old days — just kidding).
But that, as I’m sure you all know, failed me miserably. So I was forced into something else: giving up my mind-numbing crutches.
The Outdoors Strikes Again
Two years into the new path, my mind cleared up a little and I discovered the trick I learned at the barn: the outdoors gives me a jumbo shot of real life, nearly the second I step into it.
And then, all of the sudden, a couch potato like me became a cyclist, and then a mountaineer, and now a (budding) rock climber. And all of that has saved my life again.
Being outside and moving my body around turns my life from black and white to color. It changes my perspective, and all of the silly stresses I latch onto in my city slicker life (money, food, money, parking) slip silently away. Then it places the good stuff, the stuff that matters to me, into focus.
Traipsing through the foggy green that surrounds Seattle, wandering around on snowy peaks, and even cursing at problems in the climbing gym transforms me from a hangry ball of worry into someone I can get along with, someone I even (dare I say it?) like.
So, I guess I’m still stumbling along this road full of growing and shrinking pains, but it’s useful to remember that I do have something that always works: getting out there and being somebody (and then sharing what I’ve learned).