In my experience, social media doesn’t exactly lend itself to authenticity or complete honesty. I have a deep-seated appreciation for both of these traits, but living in a world dominated by social media makes me feel like displaying these qualities myself and finding them in others is no small task these days. We all know how it goes in this InstaFaceTweet world -- our days are often pruned down to lovely posts about how happy and cheery and awesome life is. I’m as guilty as anyone. Many times I’ve typed about a far-less-than-stellar day, only to find myself unable to press the post button for fear of being a downer.
This trend, coupled with other “stuff”, has made me retreat a little further into my shell over the past few years. But recently, I poked my head back out for a moment while in Lander, Wyoming for the International Climbers’ Festival. There is something about Lander that feels more authentic and open than a lot of places. It could be the landscape—open spaces don’t seem to lie. After all, you can’t hide too much in a setting where you can always see miles in every direction. Or maybe it’s the geographic location—there aren’t too many big cities very close to Lander, and maybe that forces the community to really be a community. Or maybe I’m just projecting my experience there onto the place, because I feel like my weekend in Lander brought back a more open and authentic version of me that I’d like to show the world more often.
I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of an awesome group of speakers at the festival, and before the weekend began, I was tasked with writing a 12-minute presentation about how climbing has touched my life. Condensing the immensity of the answer into a mere 12 minutes would be impossible, so I shared a very abbreviated version of how climbing has helped me think outside of the traditional Midwestern “box” of my upbringing.
I talked about how there was a time when I had a pretty clear plan for my future, a plan that didn’t include climbing. Along the way, however, climbing has taught me that the “traditional beta” isn’t the only way, and that the process of finding my own “beta” is a pretty crazy and rewarding one that will never be complete.
Nowadays, the activity that I had written out of my future has become one of the most important things in my life. And I’m not exactly sure where I’m headed in the years to come. This fact itself isn’t a revelation for me; I’ve been floundering around, toeing the line between a climbing-centric life and “something else” for the better part of 15 years. So, wondering what I’ll be doing in 10 or 20 years is not a new thing for me, but openly expressing it was. I know that’s nothing Earth-shattering, since no one every really has it all figured out, and plenty of people express that every single day. But I openly admitted that to a bunch of strangers for the first time in Lander, and it was cathartic. Simply admitting that “I don’t know”, even though at one point I thought I did, took a weight off my shoulders that I didn’t even know I was carrying.
We all put up fronts to display to the world, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Everyone is dealing with “stuff”, fighting their own battles, figuring it out. The world doesn’t always need to know the details. But every once in a while, it’s okay to open up a little and be human. Every once in a while it’s not so bad to write that less-than-perfect post….and actually post it.