It’s strange to the average person that one might make climbing the central part of their life. I don’t know if it’s an endorphin high that keeps bringing us back, but even as far back as the early 90’s, people I would introduce to climbing would become immediately obsessed. Was it the gear, the physical activity itself, the outdoor nature of it (there was no indoor gym back then), the camaraderie, or what? It’s not a bad thing to be obsessed about something or build your life around one thing, that’s how you get to be the best and change the world. But, when your identity is wrapped up in that one thing and that one thing goes away…it can feel like the end of the world.
I remember introducing climbing to a friend back in University. I took him to one of our local cliffs called Whips Ledges in Hinckley, Ohio. We only needed top rope gear but since I was a starving student at the time, I had only the essential gear: A bod harness and a pair of climbing shoes. I don’t recall how I got the rest of the gear but imagine I must have borrowed it. Anyway, after that day, my friend ran out and bought all new climbing gear, everything. He was psyched and had to show it off immediately after he purchased it. My mouth gaped open at the sight and I wondered to myself if he would still be climbing in 2 weeks or a month. Of all of the people I climbed with during those years, as far as I know, I’m the only climber left.
Back then, climbing was the thing I did. I ran track and cross country in high school, but when I was introduced to climbing, like my friend, I was hooked! I still ran but I would climb every chance I got. Although climbing was something I did a lot it was still secondary to my studies. When I moved out west after University, when asked what I did, the only thing I could say was that I climbed. Everyone else not only climbed, but they skied, biked, hiked, etc.
One event that shook me to the core and made me question my identity and my relationship with climbing was the end of a serious relationship. Without even realizing it, I had woven my identity around my life with this person. Once he was gone, I didn’t know who I was anymore without him. I lost my friends, my routine (because everything I did reminded me of us, my home, everything. I even stopped climbing and found it hard to climb because despite that this was something I did for years before I met him, I had blended that relationship into my climbing sphere. I no longer knew why I climbed and that was very unsettling.
Initially, I fell into a deep depression. I didn’t want to see anyone and estranged myself further. Going climbing made me sad (and it used to be my refuge!). Working was difficult (and I loved my job). I started to question everything.
Questioning everything is a scary place to be. It’s like ripping the rug out from underneath you and not knowing if there is a floor to catch you. You’ve probably heard the saying
Leap and a net will appear
Well, it’s one thing to understand this and another to find yourself searching for some faith as you feel yourself flailing.
Losing a job, a relationship, getting injured and being out of climbing for an extended period of time, these are all things that can make you question who you are and what you are about. Because we can get absorbed in these things, I think it’s unhealthy to wrap our identities around what we do or the people with which we get involved. Naturally and unavoidably it can happen and without us knowing it’s happening.
For example, being a mom or a dad. You are a mom or a dad, it just happens. But, you are also more than that. What happens to moms and dads when the kids have left the house if all they saw of themselves was that of being a parent? They feel lost. They have forgotten who they are outside of their kids. It’s the same way with someone who is obsessed with their job or someone who has given too much for their relationship or someone obsessed with climbing.
Signs your identity could be wrapped up in climbing:
- You feel lost without it
- When injured, you keep trying to climb anyway
- When injured for an extensive time, you start withdrawing
- Without climbing you would find yourself scratching your head after work wondering what to do now that you have free time
- You have no other friends outside of climbing
- Your only extracurricular activity revolves around climbing
- A weekend without climbing has you feeling lost, like your life has a void in it
- You can’t have a conversation without talking about climbing
Remember Million Dollar Baby? Find out who you are without your obsession and you will never feel lost, depressed, estranged, or otherwise conflicted about your identity. Relying on an obsession as an identity can crush you if that obsession gets impaired in any way.
Disclaimer: WordPress may include ads, which I do not endorse, to various blogs following posts.