I’ve been many things in my lifetime of 37 years. I’ve been a high school valedictorian. I’ve been an Honor Graduate in Basic Military Training. I’ve been Top Graduate of the Air Force Security Forces Academy. I’ve been an expert marksman, a machine-gunner in the Middle East, a police officer, an armorer, a fitness trainer at an Officers’ Gym in Germany… I’ve been an artist, a musician, a performer, a speaker, a protester… I’ve been an EMT, a medical school interviewee, a golf course groundskeeper, an elementary school janitor, a hospital volunteer… I have a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, a Master of Science in Psychology… I have PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder, ie. most would call me crazy, but that’s okay with me as long as they snicker behind my back and not to my face these days… I’m a 100% service-connected permanently and totally disabled Veteran and, as of 30 Apr 2016, I am a climber. That’s what I am – a climber. Do I have dreams? I looked up the NOLS Wilderness EMT program for the fifth or sixth time today. I know of an online doctorate in Performance Psychology so that I could get my Ph.D. that I keep thinking about. I think I could be happy running a little climbing gear shop and perhaps having a climbing gym to go with it… Or I could just climb. Climbing makes me happy and most of the time, it’s the only thing I can do with my disability. It’s the only thing that calms my PTSD and lifts my Depression. My dream is to be able to climb V10 and 5.14. I’m a climber.
I have a friend with a six-octave range who is a professional singer at age 25. He’s also a painter. Guess what else he’s been? He’s been a brewer of fine alcoholic beverages, a route setter at least three different climbing establishments that I know of, an aviation major with dreams of becoming a pilot, a youth climbing team coach, a piano player, and a communications major in college. He’s a climber. That’s what he is – a climber.
I have a 63yo doctor who was first a school teacher. His back-up plan was to become a baker if he didn’t get into medical school. He worked as a family practice physician until he “got tired of looking at butts”, and then did a second residency (with a family and all the responsibilities thereof) to become a psychiatrist, which has been his longest career thus far. His wife is a pediatric specialist, also a doctor, and they are foster parents to the sweetest little girl… He was a climber in college way before teaching, way before medical school, and as far as I’m concerned, still is with his love for the outdoors and his dreams for his next career. He is helping me discover who I am. He’s a climber.
I could tell you of many other people that I know who have similar stories of career wanderings and their roots in climbing. Some consider it something they did at one time in their lives. Others consider it their identity. The common factor here is that creative, resilient dreamer inside them all. That’s not to say that resilient dreamers have to be climbers, but most climbers that I’ve talked to have turned out to be the career wanderers who always come back to climbing in some way. They all have that dreamer quality about them. It’s part of their character, their personality, their identity. That dreamer may have gone climbing for a spell in their lifetime. One thing’s for sure about climbers, though: climbers are dreamers. They have to be! Climbers have to take the abstract concept of getting to the top of a crag or a boulder and turn it into reality somehow. That takes some dreaming, scheming, and creativity. That takes skill and determination and perseverance. That takes strength and fortitude of mind, body, and spirit. That takes hard work and faith and control over fear. It transcends the limits of society’s “should’s” and “should not’s”. Climbing and the dream that it is involves both intense focus and pure movement across the rock, all in the present moment, one hold at a time. The climber’s dream leads to peace for a brief moment or maybe a few if everything flows right. Their dream leads them ever-so-close to death, and exposes them to the absolute height of life that we as human beings are capable of experiencing, all at the same time. Who can come back from that without even loftier dreams? Not me. I’m a climbing addict, for climbers are dreamers! I am a climber!!!