On a personal level, it feels right that this first year of the second half-century of my life has been a weird one. I’m inclined to use the word pivotal, but that implies starting from some anchor point, and also sounds like an assumption that I’m the only one who’s had an unusual year. It’s 2020, and I am definitely not the only one.

My birthdays always prompt my very own year-in-review. Lots of growing up happened this year. Lots of making space and lots of shifting perspectives. That last one is the one I find most interesting, because if you know me, you know that I believe perspective is everything.

Shift: Starting over. Not at the very beginning, but right where you are, only with a beginner’s mind. I took four months off from climbing, pre-covid. When the climbing gyms closed and the crags got crowded, we went to one with fewer people and fewer routes that fit into my comfort zone. I top-roped for almost two weeks. I projected grades I warm up on elsewhere. It took four months back on to come back from four months off. And I spent them learning.

Shift: Turning on the try-hard; finding my personal motivation to dig deep. My project this summer took a long time to come together. I was making some decent links, doing all the moves, but for a few weeks I couldn’t seem to do better on it than hanging in three places. On a crowded day when I felt too rushed to expect much, I pulled on to the rock saying, “I just want one go today, and then I’ll be out of everyone’s way.” When I made it past my normal first fall point, I kept going. It didn’t feel great, I wasn’t climbing exceptionally well, but I just kept thinking, if you can fight hard enough to get to the next rest, maybe you can keep going. You could. You did. You can.

Shift: Being a different kind of partner. I’ve spent years working my way up to Charlie’s level of climbing, and we’re finally able to work routes together. Last year, trying T-Rex, Charlie ran himself into the ground and I sent without him. This year I had a personal climbing goal, of course, but supporting Charlie in his goal of ticking off T-Rex was tantamount. There were days I felt the selfishness creep up when I realized I wasn’t going to have time for a second try or that Charlie’s timed rests were throwing me off my optimal schedule. I had to learn to adapt to my own decision. It was the right one.

The final adjustment of perspective on my list isn’t a new one for this year, but an affirmation of the over-arching reality of how small we really are.

Shift: Allowing your consciousness of the universe around you to become so vast that your ego has no choice but to shrink. Knowing that you are not alone.

Fifty-one looks good.


Featured photo at top: 📸 Eric Steiner

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2 thoughts on “Fifty-One

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