Lately I have been wondering why it is that adventure and pushing myself to the limit, both physically and mentally, is such a strong drive in me. It is very much like a pull for food or air; a pull that I don’t think about denying. And when it is being fed, i forget how imperative it is to my life. Without it I self destruct, and because of it, I am putting myself into situations that others might think are incredibly self destructive. I’ve been injured many times, and very bad. I’ve broken down more times than I could possibly recall. So many times, stepping out into the wilderness, alone and with so much ahead, I wonder to myself “should I be doing this? Should I be here? Should I have chosen to be comfortable in bed, getting errands done, keeping up socially…” Quick mental notes of what feels “off” about my body flash in my head: my toe hurts, my past leg injury is stiff, my hands are cold, my eyes are exhausted.
The longer I live my life outdoors- the further I backpack, the faster I run, the more peaks I step foot on or photographs I take -I can feel all of it pulling me in a direction that is away from what most humans I know seem to strive for. I find that as I seek more and more challenge from what I crave, the more inward I go. And it becomes more difficult to “cool it” or to have easy days.
When asked about pushing my limits at a semi-relentless pace, or getting myself into “dangerous” situations, I can never actually say why I do it. And I certainly am not just talking mountains and such here. All things in life. Choices that are abrupt and big, setting expectations that seem strict, competing hard with myself. I can talk about the fun or the beauty or the peace. I can talk about the feeling of not giving up and of spiritual growth. Of connection with our planet. Even the old “time will pass anyways, might as well do stuff!” But none of that is really why I do any of these things. That comes from somewhere deeper.
My connection with animals is very much like the connection people have with friendly strangers or new friends. The way I feel stepping into clean nature is the feeling of being home. And I find that nature as a whole is unbelievably healing and revealing. There is no better way to learn who you are than to strip away everything in the middle of a wilderness and just be. Just survive. Just live. Very quickly you’ll learn about who you are, clinging to the face of a mountain, with only seven steps to take and a straight drop that would end everything just a foot to your left. That sort of information is powerful. Are you brave, gritty, how’s that foresight? Good judgement, coordination, physical control...keep that breathing in check!
And achieving what you’ve set out to do? It is a feeling that is equally empowering and humbling. Having breakdowns and close-calls are so key. To break and overcome, it shows that you can conquer, but more important, really, it shows that you can in fact, break. When I break, I usually discover or solve something that needed fixing. Whether it’s a flaw in myself, a crisis of some sort, or something much more simple. Physically pushing myself, I find gives me a love and passion for my body, a respect for nature and a zest to live. It is so humbling to realize that I am nothing but a tiny and unimportant blip on this planet and in time. It makes life a lot more straightforward. Silly issues carry so much less weight and priorities are clear.
When it’s you and nature, there isn’t anyone to blame, distract or be accountable for other than yourself. The world becomes both so big and so small. Simple choices that are often made without thinking, those become really important choices that say a lot about who you are. What kind of person you’ve become. And overcoming those challenging times is a useful tool to show you who you can become. So while I don’t fully understand my drive to push and push and push… I do understand my passion to live and explore and share all the things nature has given me. Being able to share my photos is some type of expression that I want to give. See these places, protect these places. Look at these animals, save them. They are who we are. It’s all connected.
Now with that self-reflection, narcissistic stuff out of the way, enjoy some photos from my first month of living in the sunshine state!
I love ducks.
“Big mountains are a completely different world: snow, ice, rocks, sky, and thin air. You cannot conquer them, only rise to their height for a short time; and for that they demand a great deal. The struggle is not with the enemy, or a competitor like in sports, but with yourself, with the feelings of weakness and inadequacy. That struggle appeals to me. It is why I became a mountaineer.” – Anatoli Boukreev