It was a colorful, sunny day heading back up to my hometown of Manlius in upstate New York this weekend. My brother was graduating from Cornell University, and from the moment I stepped off the bus in Syracuse I couldn’t help but be reminded of all the living that had happened in this same place under this same sun, when neither of us was even thinking of going to Cornell and the woods and hills of the allegheny plateau were my climbing gym.
Reminiscing seems to some like a self defeating proposition. Why hold on to the past when the present is here, wild and crazy and full of 20 something energy? Indeed, modern life leaves few minutes and no days for enjoying peace ad quiet, instead filled with the vibrations of ambition towards balance is renaissance man like perfection, too often.
However, too often when the pace of life accelerates too fast, ambition becomes its own instrument. This is a scary proposition indeed, but I’ve found that in an age full of intense drive towards self realization the most common mistake comes from not realizing that your self has become a zombie chasing a whole bunch of retail goals with a 5.12a on top (danger: climbing terminology).
Let me give you an example. Or three. First, just looking at the trees near my house gave me intense recollection of memories where I just really wanted to be a gibbon. I would climb trees all evening after school and dream of being as nimble as those crazy, tailless apes at the zoo. That was the naive dreams of a 12 year old, of course, and I think that’s as true to my own climbing self as I can ever get. But, fast forward 10 years, and now I’ve applied my climbing passion to become a fairy experienced outdoorsman. However, my ambitions are constantly being influenced by the climbing world around me, where people are expected to seek higher and higher grades if they are serious. The beautiful thing though, about going back into my element, is that I am instantly reminded that my goal was never to climb flatter and flatter faces, but rather to climb more and more like a monkey.
Likewise, another way we all become jaded is through our job choices. How many people dream of being an investment banker when they are little? Few, I’d say, compared to the amount of aspiring astronauts. But unfortunately the number of aspiring astronauts far outstrips the number of positions, and for many practicality sets in. And maybe we realize that we can be a rocket engineer, or an investment banker who watches star trek every night instead. And maybe that makes us happy. I for one have been wondering what to do my PhD too often lately, and in the cold world of Manhattan my answer is often revolving around salaries and job security. When I walk out into the woods, I think about how I’ve always wanted to discover something no one else has before, that changes the world. And then I remember, this is what I should be considering.
Love also. Though that’s a long story. Best to try and make it the least jaded story of all.
It was great seeing my family, running in the woods and eating sno top ice cream. I feel refreshed.