I jokingly say to myself that graduating from college is going to be metaphorically the highest mountain that I climbed. But after going through the program to become a mental health counselor and spending countless hours in school learning how to help someone become mentally stronger, the more attune I became to the love affair that I created between climbing domes of granite and the years that I spent chasing metaphorical mountains.
I pursued a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling on a whim back in 2015; mainly because I didn’t have a passion to follow. The real world was too scary. I knew that I wasn’t ready for a nine to five job and adult things such as finding a partner, having a family and settling down all seemed too overwhelming. So, I stayed in school to maintain my student identity and to escape adult responsibilities.
Although each one of my client’s stories are unique to them. There is a common theme for their symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders; that there is a disparity between who they are and who they want to be. Perhaps, being trapped in societal expectations of what should make someone happy or successful is the concept that pushes people further away from being true to themselves.
The days became longer as I committed to familiar routines and desperate attempts to get psyched up to give the best counseling session of my life. I typed up reports for my supervisors and listened to the laments of my clients, all while neglecting my inner calling. Everything was becoming dull, even muted, gray, and robotic. Each day was like I was on autopilot, going to work, making dinner and relaxing in front of the television. There was no sense of adventure and no summer nights laying underneath the fire of a thousand stars. Then, I discovered climbing.
I’m not saying that the love for rock is the only thing worth striving for; but climbing allows me to find a peace within the mountains, serenity during the nights, and a feel a sense of shared community around a flickering campfire. My days are spent romanticizing about the dirtbag life style where sandstone and bomber cams are placed in the endless splitters of Indian Creek—There seems to be nothing more rewarding, let alone, more fun than climbing vertical rock and sharing swigs of whiskey, tequila and Happy Camper IPA’s after a hard session with your best belay partners; all to wake up and do it again the following day.
Climbing is much more than a sport that involves vice-grips for forearms and a core that can shred cheddar cheese. Bouldering through a sequence of tiny crimps or finally sticking the redpoint on a sport climb is only a facet of climbing that is generally talked about. But, for someone who loves climbing, I think that the sport hits much deeper. It requires self-reliance, belief and trust. Perhaps, one can even argue that there is a transcendental element to climbing, where a sense of spirituality can be found. Climbers are exposed to every element on the earth; the rock, the oceans that we fall into, the air that swoops beneath us and the fire that burns within our hearts.
Climbing is one of those activities that taught me to be true to myself and understand my limitations on and off the rock. It is not just the adrenaline, the travel, the camaraderie and the stone that draws me into climbing. It is the continuous hope that there is a solution at the face of every problem which can be solved with belief, strength, and balance within yourself.
This is what makes climbing mountains worth it, even metaphorical ones, whatever those may be in your life.