New Life

Nomad, She Wrote

Nomad, She Wrote (5).jpg

In March of 2020, Covid-19 swept through Seattle, shut down the economy, and changed the way we lived our daily lives. I worked full-time at a rock climbing gym, where I had been employeed for nearly two years. When Seattle shut down, everyone at the gym was laid off with less than a day's notice. I was one of the many who was left with the uncertainty as to when - or if - I would be able to work again.

Losing my job was hard.

 

I was living paycheck-paycheck with no savings and student debt that I could barely afford to pay.  I made just enough money to cover my basic living expenses, and any time I was hit with any sort of financial burden, I was thrown into a world of hurt. 

When I lost my job, I had to make some hard decisions. A few weeks into unemployment, I decided it was in my best interest to move back to Bremerton with my family. Despite feeling like I had lost my life - and everything I was working to build - in Seattle, it actually ended up being a great decision. I'm really close with my family so being quarantined with them helped keep me sane, and since I wasn't paying rent, I was able to save my stimulus check and all of the money I received through unemployment benefits.

Quarantine was something else.

 

Three months flew by without notice. With no job, no social life, and no real agenda, I was living simply. I would wake up, enjoy a cup of coffee on the porch, listen to the morning birds, read, work on my photography business, then have dinner with my family each night. The simplicity gave me the space to clear the clutter and unnecessary distractions from my life.

 

For the first time in a long time, I could hear myself. I listened closely this time, knowing that I basically had a blank slate to begin with...

 

. . .

 

I spent my life fantasizing about what it would be like to live off the beaten path, as so many of my role models have. For me, to wish and to wonder what could be was never enough to satisfy my adventurous spirit. I desperately wanted to live my fantasies, but I was afraid, and I let my fear of uncertainty and hardship stop me from taking a leap of faith.

 

For years, I did my best to be a humble, contributing member of society. I went to college, I worked, I paid rent.

 

I was miserable. Slowly driving myself farther down

 

I don't know the exact moment it happened, but after spending many hours alone during quarantine, the voice in my head grew louder. I spent the better part of my young adult years hushing that voice until it was a dull whisper in the back of my mind. I went through the motions. I went to school, I worked office jobs, I paid rent. But never did I thoroughly enjoy what I was doing. I always felt like I was being called in another direction...

 

Thankfully, the voice never went away. It was always there, subtly nudging me into alignment with my calling as I stubbornly attempted to follow everyone else's "successful" life path. Now that I've cleared myself of distractions and dead ends, I can hear that voice again, even louder now.

 

The voice in my head is telling me to live my best life. Not someone else's. Mine. It's telling me to stop comparing my life to others, stop worrying how the world perceives me, stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and start focusing on what I want out of life. It's telling me that it's time to go my own way, it's time to start living my life on my terms.

A few things happened that changed the direction of my life. It started in March of 2020 - give or take a few weeks of societal denial about the severity of the pandemic. Covid-19 shut down the economy and changed the way we live our daily lives. I worked full-time at a climbing gym until Seattle shut down within two day's notice. With little notice, the gym shut down and I was laid-off with no certainty as to when - or if - I would be able to work again.

 

Photography by Ryan Lundbohm

It’s not whether you have all the fear or none.

 

Fear isn’t all or nothing, especially in climbing. In truth, the wisest climbers I know have a healthy balance of fear and courage. They assess the rock, calculate risk factors, adjust their positioning, and use their energy rationally.

It’s not about throwing yourself around on the wall (although it’s totally fun to try hard and fail sloppily), it’s about moving your body in cadence with the rock. When you find the right movements, you start to flow almost like a duet between yourself and each of the holds. You push then pull, you’re tense and then relaxed, you sway to and fro shifting your weight as you dance up the wall. You become lost in the rhythm of movement, you’re fully present and aware of yourself and the rock, nothing more. Some would describe it as a moving meditation.

When I started climbing, I was riddled with anxiety and fear. On my first day, I spent 45 minutes in SBP’s parking lot trying to find the courage just to walk through the door. There were so many people there, my social anxiety tried to convince me to drive away and save myself from the shame and embarrassment of sucking at something new. But I was curious and stubborn, I refused to walk away from the chance to try something new. As it so happens, my experience was wonderous.

I awkwardly climbed up the walls on some gray and yellow-colored routes, which were graded as V0-V2 (the easiest bouldering grades). I watched in amazement as others moved with grace and consistency. I wondered how they managed to move their bodies so elegantly while I shook and stumbled moving from one hold to the next. It was embarrassing at first, but I quickly learned that the climbing community is entirely supportive and nonjudgmental.

 

I was new to the sport, but I came into it with a try-hard attitude. I received support and encouragement as I struggled on more difficult problems (routes), and I was given praise when I finally sent them. There was one route that especially captivated me. I struggled to figure out how to move past the crux (most difficult section of the climb) but I watched more experienced climbers dyno (full body lunge) from the start to the finish, so I knew anything was possible!

 

I struggled and failed for some time, but my stubbornness kept me from walking away in defeat, I was determined to figure it out. It only took a simple body adjustment to finally move past the crux. Sometimes the smallest change can make all the difference. The climbers clapped and shouted in joy as soon as I grabbed the top of the wall, finally sending my first project (a route that you are dedicated to completing over an amount of time). I could feel something bubbling inside myself, the psyche was high as I downclimbed the route I had just completed.

 

To try and to fail repeatedly is hard work and can be unforgiving, but to fight and overcome challenges to reach your goal is beyond rewarding.

 

You challenge yourself to keep moving despite the struggle. You break through your predetermined boundaries despite your previous belief in the impossible. You shed the layers of fear and forge a new, more capable version of yourself.

I was once afraid to put myself out there, to try new things, to be around new people, but not anymore. Climbing has shown me that I’m stronger than I think I am, and I’m more capable than I give myself credit for. I know myself so much more intimately now - and to think if I let myself walk away from the experience because of fear, I would not be the woman I am today.

Photography by Ryan Lundbohm

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