It sucks to suck.

February 20, 2018

from a wonderful little backpacking trip last weekend 

 

 

It’s hard to be bad at things. It’s not easy to suck at something, but to still love it and want to pursue it. The society that we live in encourages excellence while simultaneously discouraging the learning process. Everywhere we look we see examples of people doing things that they are great at. Social media can make it seem like we are better at things than we truly are. Back in the day, unless you were actually a professional and had magazine articles written about you or what not, to know how good someone is at a certain skill, like for say climbing, you would probably have to either have a conversation with them about it, or actually go climbing.

 

These days, I can go on Instagram and see photo after photo of friends and acquaintances skiing, climbing, hiking, etc. Someone might post a photo of a beautiful mountain, with a caption that says something like “great day in the mountains!” and I might get jealous because my head immediately assumes that they had a long day actually IN the mountains, when the reality could be that they drove through a mountainous road, or maybe just stepped out of the car to take said photo. Social media is for the most part, a collection of people’s favorite moments, arranged in a way that makes it look inviting for others. On the other side of the screen, we take those moments and compare them to our everyday lives: the school work, the long days at uninspiring jobs, the messy lives that every one of us leads to some degree.

 

Sometimes those photos of far away places and fun outdoor activities are incredibly inspiring, making me want to write lists of trips I want to take, routes I want to climb, making me take every moment I can to get outside and to do what I love. But sometime those photos can become overwhelming and discouraging, for many reasons.

 

Most of the time that reason is that at this specific time in your life, you just don’t have the ability to be out there and doing everything you might want to be doing. You might not have the time; Maybe you are in school and want to make the most out of an expensive education. Maybe you just need to spend some time taking care of yourself. Maybe you’ve been working hard for months to save up for an international trip this summer, or even to just pay the bills. Maybe you have personal relationships that are more important to invest time into for now. These are completely valid reasons and not something to feel stressed about because you aren’t out there sending the gnar. Time passes, priorities change. Just because right now you aren’t focused on getting to be the best climber/hiker/biker/skier you could possibly be, doesn’t mean that isn’t always out there waiting for you.

 

my favorite crag views 

 

This weekend in didn’t particularly turn out the way I had planned. It was a long weekend, and with every long weekend comes pressure to do something incredible. What can you make happen with an additional 24 hours?! I had so many ideas, climbing in Smith Rock, climbing in Squamish, skiing at Baker, a camping trip in the San Juan Islands. Anything to get myself and the people I love outside having a great time and getting things done.

 

The reality of the weekend turned out a little different. I ended up not doing any of these things, for a variety of reasons, and ended up crying to my boyfriend about how I wasn’t doing enough, how I should be out there, climbing rocks and mountains, snowboarding, and improving at all these things. But sometimes, the stars just don’t align, and the great thing is that there are lots of other important things in life. This weekend I hung out with friends, climbed at the gym, went to the beach and baked five loaves of bread, two cakes, made pad thai, and wrote this blog post. It was a successful weekend by any account and despite the fact that I still wish I could have been in the mountains, but weather and skill and opportunity were not on my side. And that’s okay. There’s always next weekend.

 

This brings me back to my original point. For some reason, it is not okay to be bad at things. Getting into outdoor sports is either luck; you meet the right person who teaches you everything you would ever need to know, expensive; you take classes, buy all the right gear before you even learn anything, or ridiculously hard. Without the right money or connections you are left scrambling to learn anything and everything all on your own. If you’re lucky you can find a community of people who will welcome you in and teach you slowly but surely, but these sports are not straight forward or easy. There is a huge level of liability for anyone teaching someone how to climb/ski/mountain bike or even hike. It takes a certain type of person to want to teach someone how to ski on a powder day when they could be off bettering their own skills. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to take your inexperienced friend out for a day in the mountains, or on the river, or in the woods, because you want to experience it fully for yourself. But this makes it even harder for that novice to learn the skills that they need to feel proficient in the field.

 

Three years ago as a new climber who only bouldered in a gym, I wanted nothing else but to get outside, to touch real rocks and to really learn the ropes and get up high in the mountains. None of my friends climbed at that point in time, and especially as a girl I didn’t know where to look for partners. It took getting a job at a climbing gym, reaching out to climbers in the community and really putting myself out there to create my identity as a climber. It took me so long to gain the technical skills I needed to feel comfortable climbing outside and although I still have so many things to learn, I now feel comfortable taking less experienced climbers outside and teaching them about how they can be safe and have fun while climbing as well as pursuing my own objectives in the mountains.

 

I’ve heard so many friends complain about this, that it takes dedicating your entire life to something to really be able to identify as it. A friend of mine just said to me the other day that she no longer considers herself a climber because she has decided to focus more on dance this year, and hasn’t climbed in months. I wonder if I can consider myself a snowboarder if I go snowboarding once or twice a season due to time and money, but I continue to love the sport and hope to be able to pursue it in the future. There are so many things that I would love to pursue in the future, but I was not raised in a particularly outdoorsy family, and never had the from birth outdoor exposure that many of my peers seem to have. I see many people wanting to get into technical outdoor adventures who just have no idea how to get there.

 

colorado this winter when I got really sick and we couldn't do most of the things we had planned but had a lot of fun anyways!

 

I don’t really have a straightforward answer to this. All I know is that I am going to try to do better at being bad at things. I am not a great snowboarder. I huff and puff when I am going uphill on my bike. I literally always lose card games. I am really really bad at drawing. We tend to avoid the things we are bad at because it is easier and more fun to be good at things. It doesn’t always feel good to be the last one up the hill or to hold other people back or to look incompetent. But failing is one of the best ways to learn. Preferably failure will be done in a safe and controlled environment, but unfortunately sometimes lessons are learned the really hard way. If you approach it the right way, sucking at things can be really fun. It helps to either be able to pursue something on your own, or to have really supportive helpful people around to make the failure into just another step in the process, but if you are still looking for that community, here are a few resources I have found that are helping to bring people together in the outdoors and pursue fun outdoor activities.

 

- Facebook groups! There are so many great ones out there that provide a great community and connections to people in your community and others. A few I really like are Girls Who Climb, PNW Outdoor Women, and Washington Hikers and Climbers, but obviously these are both gender and location specific. Look up your own location or specific sport themed Facebook group, or create it! 

 

-Alpenglow Collective : This is a platform for women and transgender mountain people to find each other and get out there! Mostly climbing, but also skiing and mountaineering. http://alpenglowcollective.co/


-REI: REI offers so many programs, many of them free, all really reasonably priced that either teach about skills for outdoor adventures, or actually take you out to do them! I would assume that this would also be a good way to meet people in your area who like to do the same things you do. https://www.rei.com/learn.html

 


-WWU Outdoor Center: At Western we have a great resource, the outdoor center. I know other Universities have similar programs that provide really cheap guided trips into the backcountry. Great way to meet people and learn skills!

 


If you know of other similar resources, please let me know! This is something that I would love to expand in the future. I am hoping to one day be able to use my own skills to give other people the opportunity to learn, grow, and find community through recreation.  

 

 

 

 

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