Teach them well

You’re a parent even if you don’t realize it.  A parent to friends, coworkers, others’ children, maybe even your own children.  A parent to your own inner child, even.  I wish someone (anyone, really) had been a better parent for me—including myself.  I say and do things that aren’t the least bit flattering to observers.  I berate myself for small mistakes, I don’t give myself even the slightest leeway in creative or physical pursuits, I am unable to be a hundred percent present.  All of which might understandably give someone the impression that I’m an angry and uncompromising person one-hundred percent of the time, which isn’t always true.

There are an incalculable number of things I wish I could have done to make things better, a huge number of lessons I wish I could have imparted on the people I’ve met throughout my life.  Allowing the children you see to have a sense of mastery and purpose, fostering a sense of purpose, granting them the space to explore themselves and their surroundings, uninhibited, in the inseparable interests of discovery and growth.

Let them have the opportunity and space to fail.  They’ll ask for help when they need it.  They’ll surprise you as they learn to do what may have taken you years to learn, and you might even surprise yourself.  I wish I could have discovered earlier that what drives my criticism of other people is the intense criticism I hold for myself.  Failure was either too expensive or criticized ruthlessly by parents or peers.

Grant them the courage to ask the hard questions and speak on their difficult and thorny truths.  The worst that you can do to them is to stifle their ability to tell you how they feel by making them feel unsafe.  I wish I would have had the space to be able to say “you make me angry because you live such a small life and it doesn’t seem like you really try”.

Don’t just be a bystander–be involved.  They’re in your life for a reason, and it’s your job to figure out what that reason is.  Similarly, you’re in their life for a reason–and it’s your job to help them find their joy and to be present with them in it.  I’ve had to struggle with the fact that I never had someone involved in the things I was interested in or anyone to encourage me growing up.  Having to find my own motivation for things and struggling with finding validation outside of myself instead of having my own validation and a sense of fulfillment.

In short: be the person that you would have wanted others to be.  Be the parent that you’d wished you’d had.  Be the friend that others see you as.

30 Things I’ve Learned

I can’t believe it–I’m thirty.  That realization still hasn’t fully sunk-in for me–the fact that I’m this old or the fact that I’ve made it to this point in my life.  I didn’t have any expectations that I would make it this far, and I honestly believed that I wouldn’t live to see this day.  Goes to show how life can surprise you and how much things can change, I guess.

The last few years, I’ve made an effort to put up things that I’ve learned that have had a big impact on my life over the course of the previous year.  I’ve learned a lot this year and changed a lot as a result.

I’ve grown to understand that not everyone will know or understand me, and being that one of my worst issues centers on the fact that I seldom feel valued or wanted, that unmet need arises in the worst ways.  The fact that I also don’t know how to value myself or be happy outside of achievement and external validation has made some aspects of my life difficult.

But in the last couple of months, I’ve spent more time trying to understand what makes me happy and I’ve tried to become more comfortable with myself.  The idiosyncrasies, the nerdiness, the weirdness–all of it.  I won’t always be liked or understood, and I’ve been learning how to accept that.  I won’t lie: it’s hard.  Harder than a lot of things I’ve tried to do for myself, but one day I hope it’ll be automatic.

Here’s 30 things that I’ve learned this year (or I’ve been reminded about):

1. No one will advocate for you except you.

There isn’t anyone else on Earth that knows you nearly as well as you do, and they don’t know your life any better than you do.  If you don’t advocate for yourself and for the things that you want, no one will.

2. Trust is not given, it needs to be earned.

Some people will go out of their way to ingratiate themselves or work at appearing worthy of your trust and time–most of the time, these are people who, whether unconsciously or not, become emotional sink-holes and perpetual time-sinks.  If people aren’t showing up, aren’t proving themselves worthy of trust, and aren’t able to give you the kind of experience you’re looking for, just drop the expectations on the floor and walk away.

3. Lives are not lived in vain–so get on with living.

There will be naysayers, doubters, and downers throughout your life.  The worst of them will try to actively sabotage your success and your excitement.  Others just won’t get it and will try to discourage you.  But here’s the secret: don’t let them.  Your volition is your own, and anyone that would diminish your energy or downplay your interests deserves neither your time nor your attention.  Do what makes you happy without compromise.

4. The truth is often more complicated (and damning) than you might think.

Whether it’s digging to find the truth about abuse in the family, a search for meaning and purpose, or struggling to make sense of the world, the truth is often complex and multi-faceted.  Allowing for perspectives other than your own and trying to see things from one other than your own can help bridge gaps and build relationships.

5. Know your worth (and don’t let other people dictate it).

Your worth is not dictated by your job, your car, your clothes, your hair, or your body dimensions.  Your worth is exactly what you believe it to be.

But more specifically, you need to know your worth in relation to the journey you have been on–how far you’ve come and how far you have yet to go.  No one’s journey is pre-ordained or set in stone, and expecting your journey to mirror someone else’s will only make you unhappy.

6. Your journey is unique (same as everyone else’s).

Every individual’s journey is going to contain its own set of circumstances, its own side-paths, twists, turns, thrills, chills, and–you get the idea.  Nothing is predictable or set in stone, and as a result your journey will change wildly.  Sometimes right before your very eyes.  Sometimes it’ll be happy and ecstatic, other times it might feel as though a star is collapsing in your chest.  Sometimes you have to just let it go and recognize that your journey will often change directions and will change you in the process.

7. Be okay with just ‘being okay’.

It’s hard for a lot of perfectionists and go-getters to understand or accept, but sometimes you have to be okay with just being okay.  Some days you won’t be able to lift that weight, to carry that load, or bear that burden–and that’s okay.

8. Don’t settle.

Settling is a tricky business.  On the one hand, once you know you’ve found something that makes you happy it can be comforting to settle into a rhythm or a routine or to finally feel as though you’ve “arrived”–and that’s okay.  We all seek it to some extent.  But what keeps us growing and keeps life fresh is change, challenge, and the unknown.  Throwing yourself headlong into something new and recognizing that you will be okay on the other side is one of the easiest ways to experience it.

9. Experience life.

Try everything.  Literally anything.  If there’s an introductory course, a class you can audit, an interest, a hobby, anything–run, do not walk, toward that experience.  A life spent in simplicity can be rewarding in its own right, but at this point in history there’s no reason not to try.

10. Fear is not a motivator.

Negative reinforcement and consquences fail more often than not for kids and animals, so why do it to yourself?  Energy spent on fear is better spent on anything but.

11. Love is the ultimate motivator.

Love people, love food, love challenges, love yourself, love as much as you are capable.  When your life experience is colored and motivated by love, you’ll often find that you spend less time playing the blame-and-shame game.

12. Self-care isn’t selfish–it’s essential.

Sometimes it’s a night in, other times it’s a day out.  Whatever recharges you, lets you be your truest self, and gives you a sense of flow, center, or purpose to your life, chase it.  Or don’t, your call.

13. Surround yourself with people that you know and love.

This shouldn’t have to be said, but I’ve had to re-learn this particular lesson a lot over the last year.  There are certain people that can be beneficial, and there are others still that you’ll find will need to be walked away from.  That distinction has been hard for me to figure out, but it’s been utterly indispensible in finding the people that I’ve needed in my life.

14. Stop tolerating toxic people.

You know the type: always telling you what you can’t do, telling you exactly what your problem is, trying to talk you down from your ambitions.  The people spreading negativity without any reason to.  The people perpetually stuck in the past.  The ones who just can’t seem to let go.

Those are the ones you need to let go of.  The ones you should have the courage and the respect for to tell them right to their face how toxic their behavior is and how you love them enough to want to see them move past it.  It’s hard, but worth it.

15. Love and respect people enough to tell them the truth.

How you feel, how they make you feel, how they act, how you act, how their behavior harms or helps you or them–none of it should be taboo or off the table.  A relationship of mutual respect and love is what really delineates a full life and one left yearning for more.

16. Get organized.

Everyone has a phone or computer capable of using the internet with access to things like Google.  There’s no reason to not have a calendar, to not set reminders, to not set your bills to auto-pay, and to not know exactly what you owe or are owed monetarily.  There’s no reason not to be able to know when you’re committed to something and when you’re not.  And there’s certainly not a reason to not get organized, not when it’s free.

17. Curate your life ruthlessly.

Don’t love it?  Don’t keep it.

That clothing you never wear?  Donate it.

That piece of outdoor gear you’ve never used?  Sell it.

Those CDs you never listen to?  Rip them, then sell them or donate them.

Those books you’ve already read or never seem to get around to?  Donate them.

Those events you keep getting invited to but never seem to go to?  Unsubscribe.

In short: if you don’t absolutely love it, don’t keep it.  There will be less things to clean-up, less things to look after, and less reason to fret if something happens.  You’ll also find that you have more out of the deal:

More space to breathe and stretch.

More time to think.

More time do what you’re really interested in doing.

More freedom.

18. Be okay with not being okay.

The state of “not being okay” is more-or-less the default.  Discomfort, distress, and discontentment are the hallmarks of a life lived with introspection and understanding, not marks of weakness or moral failings.  I’ve found that the more work that I do both on myself and in the physical world, nothing is “okay”… and that’s perfectly fine.

19. The rest of the world falls into two categories…

  • People who know who you are and care about you.
  • People who couldn’t give less of a damn who you are or why you’re alive.

Ignore the second category, and carefully curate the first one.  You’ll thank yourself later.

20. You are not:

  • Your job
  • Your title
  • Your socioeconomic class
  • Your car
  • Your sport
  • Your interest
  • Your hobby
  • Your condition
  • Your illness
  • Your disease
  • Your fucking khakis

21. You are:

  • A living, breathing human being.
  • Act accordingly.

22. Don’t neglect your health.

Mental health, dental health, ocular health, bodily health, spiritual health–any of it.  The more often you check in with yourself and take care of your health, the better off you’ll be.

23. Stick to the basics.

Doesn’t matter if you’re packing for a trip, getting groceries, getting a car, finding a computer, or a new job.  The closer you stay to the absolute basics, the less complicated your life becomes overall.

24. Pay your debts (and try not to accumulate any at all).

This country is absolutely turgid with resources that it should be a crime to pay full price for anything, but people seem to do it anyway.  Buy used, buy refurbished, buy from friends or neighbors.  Rent when you can, buy when you have to.

25. You’re weird and unique–just like everyone else.

Whether or not people actively cultivate that label or image, everyone has their idiosyncrasies and “rough edges”.  You have a bunch of them too, they just might not be as obvious to you as they are to other people.  Learn to love them, and you’ll find yourself.

26. Sometimes the thing you want the most is the worst thing for you.

Struggling to make friends?  Work on being happier by yourself first.

Finding it hard to find meaning in your life?  Get out and travel.

Sometimes what you’re striving and straining so hard to obtain or achieve is actually the opposite of what you actually need.  Go the opposite direction and ask the hard questions first, then revisit your wants.  I’d wager you’ll find something different there when you come back to it.

27. Never stop learning.

We live in the most information-rich period in human history with instant access to nearly any topic imaginable and resources to calculate and ask for the answers you need.  There’s no excuse to avoid learning.  YouTube, WikiHow, and even just performing a Google search can get you on-track to completing a task or learning something new.  So what’re you waiting for?

28. Read.

Poetry.  Science-fiction.  Fantasy.  Trade magazines.  Medical textbooks.  Anything.

The more you read, the more knowledge you have at your command, and the less ignorance will keep you from doing what you mean to do.

29. Not everyone will understand (or even like) you.

Like a lot of art forms, sometimes your target audience isn’t who you expect.  Not everyone will “get you”.  Not everyone will enjoy your company.  Not everyone be there for you.

The sooner you recognize and accept this, the easier life gets.

30. It’s not about you.

That argument.  That misunderstanding.  That fear.  It’s not about you specifically, it might be about what you represent or the identity you bear.  The ways in which people might respond to you might not be about you at all and instead might be reflections of what’s going on in their own heads or hearts.  It’s not necessarily your fault, and it’s not about you.

Blank Spaces

When you divorce yourself from the fickle opinions of critics and passive observers, you free yourself from a form of psychic tyranny.

When you dismiss the cynics and only recognize the opinions of people who have earned that privilege, you find yourself with a significantly larger amount of mental bandwidth.

When you stop worrying about what other people think and about impressing them, what does that leave you with?

That blank space is yours to fill.  What will you bring to it?

Realities

There’s a realization that I’ve had to spend time getting eye-to-eye with.  An inescapable fact.  It’s ugly and painful, but I think it’s about as close to a truism as I think I can really get.

95% of the time, people won’t show up for you.

4.9% of the time they might because either you’ve coerced them or their interests and yours align.

The remaining 0.1% of the time is complete happenstance or someone actually being a Decent Fucking Human Being.

“The work”, then, is to find as many people that fit into that 0.1% as you can.  Disregard the rest.

Because spending your time on the 95% of “no’s” and 4.9% of “maybe’s” is a waste of time, and there’s enough time wasted in our lives as it is.

Meaningful Life

Going to try an experiment. Going to ask a series of three questions relating to living a meaningful life. Anyone can feel free to steal them and answer them on their own if they like. Just going to be brutally-honest and just put it all out there. Because hiding isn’t doing anything for anyone at this point.
First question: “What is meaningful to me?”
I’m not sure if I can answer this question fully. A lot of my behavior is still driven by a need to be validated by other people. A lot of people-pleasing, avoiding boat-rocking. Being silently angry and sullen while presenting a stoic outer appearance. What has made me happy lately? Solving problems, even if they’re small ones. Granted, I get worked-up about big problems and then get down on myself when I can’t figure out how to solve smaller problems. When I can teach someone something new or keep motivation high with them on a physical activity or a project, then I am happy and satisfied. I feel as though I often can’t do a lot of things because I don’t know enough, so I content myself with nudging a tiny piece of something along. I need to break that cycle, but I’m afraid of spending effort on things that might not pan-out or might actively blow-up in my face. So, I guess to put it in succinct terms: I haven’t figured this out yet. There’s a lot that I know makes me feel a little better about myself, but there isn’t anything that I’ve found thus far that I would literally stop being me if I wasn’t able to do it anymore.
Second question: “What constitutes a meaningful life?”
Another tough one. For me, it’s less applicable to social good or social justice, though for people that can derive meaning and merit from their actions in these efforts I’m happy for them. I suppose in my case it’s way more cerebral than physical, but the physical can be a gateway or path toward it. I’ve felt pretty fucking incredible getting to the top of some pretty interesting rope climbs, and I’ve found a kind of peace being out in nature. I suppose that’s what informs a lot of my life experience, seeing as how a large part of my life has been spent in some kind of anxiety, depression, or trauma. Finding those “moments of power”, of time-outside-of-time when life is larger than itself… that’s meaningful to me. When reality just seems to become stock-still and I can feel the edges of reality kind of curving inward on itself; those are the moments I live for. At the top of a long hike, a hard climb, a powerful move on a boulder problem, or even sitting with someone after pouring our hearts out on the floor for the other to see. These are the moments I keep my eyes peeled for.
Final question: “What would I be doing if money and education were no obstruction?”
Honestly? Climbing and coaching. I’d want to learn as much as possible about physical training, conditioning, nutrition, and injury management/rehabilitation as possible and help people to push just that little bit further. Just the tiniest iota beyond what they thought they were capable of. Seeing somebody literally glow because they achieved a new personal record or achieved a goal makes me happy.
A close second would be writing and photography. I’d like to be able to take pictures of places I find interesting, get their history, talk to the people who know, and be able to bring that back to the rest of the world. Because knowing more about the world around me is more important than ever.

Coal or Diamonds?

Coal requires three things to be able to change:

  • Heat
  • Pressure
  • Time

The soul is no different.

Similarly, the acorns of some of the greatest and mightiest trees on Earth need the same.  So:

  • Get passionate (heat)
  • Get active and be publicly-accountable (pressure)
  • Be PATIENT (time)

Just because

Just because your hands are trembling doesn’t mean you’re weak.

Often it means that you’ve exerted yourself in pursuit of something greater.

Just because you’ve failed or fallen doesn’t mean you’ll always fail or fall.

Past may be prologue, but it does not determine the epilogue of your journey.

Just because someone doesn’t understand or support you doesn’t mean you’re wrong or bad.

Sometimes it’s just an indicator that you’re on a different path.  Respect the differences and celebrate them.