“Fear urged him to go back, but growth drove him on.” – Jack London, White Fang
When I was a child, before my parent’s got divorced and I still lived in Atlanta, I had a dream in which my entire bed was covered with bugs. I’m talking centipedes, worms, beetles, all kinds of creepy crawlies had invaded my bed. I immediately ran to my parents and begged them to save me from this onslaught of bugs. They told me to figure it out my own. With determination to sleep safely, I grabbed a tiny pink broom (I think my parent’s bought it for me in an effort to encourage cleanliness, it didn’t work) and promptly beat the living hell out of those bugs on my bed until they disappeared. Thus began the development of my own independence and determination. That being said, I’m still scared of everything.
Right now, I feel like my life is my bed covered in bugs and I’ve somehow misplaced my little pink broom so I can’t get any of the bugs off.
As a college student and someone that works hard to afford climbing trips and gas (often living off maybe $40-$50 a week), the month of April has been exhausting. Between the end of the semester, saving up after my trip to Utah for my upcoming Yosemite trip in May, looking for a new job, packing my apartment to move, and trying to squeeze in time to train for climbing, it feels like there’s a never-ending deluge of things I need to do and not nearly enough time to do them. I’ve been dealing with a lot of fears recently, specifically the fear of growing older and taking on more responsibility in my life. And it’s hard. Similar to my struggles with increasing my mental strength in climbing, it’s a slow and agonizing process but unlike climbing, the real world will go on without you. I’m currently watching coworker after coworker leave for better jobs and while I am so happy for them, the idea of being left behind at a job that no longer makes me happy is daunting. It’s crushing. But the world will continue. The bugs will still reside on my bed and eventually I’ll find my broom and, for a brief period of time, my bed will be bug-free again.
That knowledge, however, does nothing to make me feel any less scared now. It’s intensely overwhelming and can occasionally leave me lying in bed not wanting to move or get up because the idea of simply existing seems way to impossible. It’s at these moments the existential crisis of most 20 somethings shows it’s cynical head asking me if I really think I’m going to get a job as a conservationist? Am I really going to get to the point where lead climbing doesn’t make me want to cry like a small angry baby? Will I ever actually keep my apartment consistently clean? Am I really going to write a book one day?
None of those questions have answers and in reality, it doesn’t matter. Thinking that far into the future isn’t going to help me now, especially if all I’m doing is doubting myself and wondering about things I can’t control.
The end of last summer culminated in an intense emotional roller coaster where I felt completely lost and like the universe had just decided that I would no longer be happy or successful ever. This unfortunate experience resulted in me getting my first tattoo and going on a ten-day road trip up the east coast by myself. None of which I regret. My tattoo is a mountain range in Spain, Naranjo de Bulnes, an impressive series of peaks I’ve never actually been to but when I found the image on google after having dinner with my friend (who ended up drawing it), I knew that those gray precipices symbolized a level of strength that I wanted to have back in my life and that having the constant reminder of what I’m capable of visible on my arm would act as a catalyst to get me out of my cesspit of emotions. I learned a lot since getting my tattoo as I journeyed up through Hatteras Island, North Carolina, Silver Spring, Maryland, somewhere near the Yankee Candle Factory in Massachusetts, and Montreal, Canada. I cried a lot. I listened to Survivor by Destiny’s Child on repeat. I had my lovely co-author, Olivia, give me some excellent reality checks. I conquered some serious lead climbing fears in Massachusetts. I ate my mom’s spaghetti while sitting on the kitchen floor of the house I lived in throughout High School at 3 am. I solved a lot of my problems.
In spite of all this taking back control of my life, the world will keep turning and throwing new and surprising problems at me, and I am going to continue banging my head against the gigantic wall that is the university system while I try and find time for work, climbing, and paying my parking tickets. I’m learning new things about myself always and here’s what I’ve got figured out so far:
- Google calendar is a life saver. You can set reminders and block out chunks of time so you can better organize your day.
- Sometimes the best thing you can do when you’re overwhelmed is take the time to do your full workout/training routine. You’ll feel like you’ve actually accomplished something in the midst of feeling like you can’t get anything done.
- But also feel free to take some time for yourself and breathe, rest is important too, don’t let yourself run on empty.
- Pay things on time. Seriously, parking tickets aren’t worth paying double over.
- Focus on the things you can control right now. Doing laundry, taking a shower, studying for your finals, brushing your teeth.
- Have someone older than you, with more life experience, that you can get advice from. And hugs. Lots of hugs.
- Everything will be ok.