We'll start here where it's not too high
These were Hugh’s words to me as we arrived at our first crag and I stared up the face of a 15 metre climb. I think it took me a few moments to respond. My very helpful inner monologue was off and running… “Eva you are way out of your comfort zone what the hell are you doing here abort abort abort!”
Pre COVID my next mega adventure was going to be a week of rock climbing with Hugh and Bridie from the Blue Mountains Climbing School. But you know, coronavirus. 😳
So in the spirit of adapting and overcoming (I like to think I have a military-style approach to dealing with adversity) we reorganised our first session in keeping with the new restrictions. I was entirely pumped to be able to get outside for whatever type of micro-adventure I could manage (it was not micro).
But there was more to this trip than getting back outside. I don’t think I realised it until I was hanging off a sling 30 metres above the ground, repeating to myself out loud that I could do this (because no one could hear me because I was so far off the fucking ground, hanging from a sling, did I mention that?) but actually this trip was about proving something to myself. (I know I know. Completely shocked).
I’ve loved indoor rock climbing since I went to a school birthday party at the local indoor climbing gym, like 25 years ago. I’d go through phases of “ooh I’m a climber now” and then not go back for years at a time, but I always felt like I did enough to justify listing it on my Tinder profile.
The problem? I was never actually amazing at it. Like sure, I could do an overhang or two and sometimes I’d climb for enough consecutive weeks that I could tick a whole lot of yellow routes at the gym (the rock is not colour-coded when you climb outside FYI – I’ll get to that shortly) but I was never GREAT at it. I couldn’t do the cool stuff, I wasn’t exceptional, I didn’t stand out from the other myriad of people in the gym of an evening…
And who knew deep down, that bothered me. And not just with climbing. It bothers me in like every aspect of my life.
“Am I the best at this? No. Okay fine well I’m not doing it anymore then”.
Sound familiar? It’s the story of my fucking life! Like every single thing I have ever been good at, is overshadowed by this sense of inadequacy because someone out there can do it better. Or faster. Or with more finesse.
“Oh you do multiday hikes? Have you done the seven summits?”
“What’s that, you play the piano? Are you contracted by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra?”
“Oh you climb? You climbed outdoors for the first time the other day? That’s awesome! Did you use a rope? Oh you did? I mean you’ve seen Free Solo right?”
If this does not sound painfully familiar to you then you can probably close this post now (and mess up my blog stats but that’s fine cause you know it hasn’t gone viral and earned me a blue tick on insta yet so what’s the point of writing it in the first place?!)
It’s the whole ‘jack of all trades master of none’ thing. Start something, do well at it, realise you’re actually not the only person in the world who can do this and what’s more there are a whole lot of others who can do it better than you… experience an overwhelming amount of deep seeded insecurity around now pursuing this thing because actually you don’t really believe you are capable of achieving much more in this domain, so decide to move on to the next thing under the guise of “I just got bored of it” or some other fabulous story you tell yourself.
There was something different about this trip though. It was as if I was taken so far out of my comfort zone that I actually just had to surrender to my own flaws, my own unrealistic expectations, my own lack of olympic-level athleticism. I had to be okay with being mediocre.
And let me tell you, it was two of the most incredible days of adventure I have ever really had. I can’t count the number of times I looked around me to see trees and rock and SPACE beneath my feet that I have never seen before. I kept breaking into this ridiculously cheesy grin because I WAS ACTUALLY DOING IT. I was on the rock!
Was it like the easiest grade of climb in the world?
But did that matter one iota?
And that was the moment the penny dropped. It was like Eva, what if life isn’t meant to be a whole lot of all or nothing? What if you’re allowed to do something purely for the enjoyment of it? Or, brace yourself, what if you can just be okay at something? And what if that is enough?
Those two days in the mountains seriously rocked. (See what I did there?). I felt like I had stepped so far out of my comfort zone that there was no option other than to completely surrender to it. And so I did. I cut the bullshit, I stopped assessing every little move I made, and I just did what I could.
The result? Experiencing something I have never experienced before. Like numb fingers from grasping freezing cold rock before the sun has hit it. Or a breeze on your back while you gaze up the rock from 30 meters up. Or words of encouragement from a complete stranger who is sitting at the bottom of the crag as you abseil in.
So what’s next? Well, I bought a rope. It’s pretty colours. It’s 70 meters long. It looks very cool. And it totally fits with my all-the-gear-and-no-idea approach to life. When people show me photos of their children now I show them photos of my rope.
Hugh and I will be tackling project number two in a few weeks and I can’t wait! Above all though, that weekend of climbing reignited a passion. Minus the expectations. I’ve come to terms with the fact that The North Face haven’t put through a sponsorship deal. I’ve even accepted that probably won’t be on the cards in the (foreseeable) future.
I’m just doing it because I enjoy it.
I know right. What a concept…
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