I participate in a lot of outdoor activities. I don’t consider learning how to do them accomplishments. I view them more as living my life as genuinely as I can–seizing opportunities when they come up and always moving in the direction of things I want without overthinking or holding back. I try to notice when the universe hands me an opportunity I can take advantage of. I don’t think too hard about it but I also don’t really think any other way of living is quite as worthy of my one wild and precious life. I firmly believe in doing. One of my personal mantras is “live it grip it” and yes, for you Zoolander fans, I did get that from Hansel. I think he might be my other spirit animal next to bumble bees.
I saw a snowboarder when I was about six years old and immediately thought snowboarding was the coolest thing so I asked my parents to let me take lessons. The next winter they granted my wish and I haven’t quit since. I raced in high school and now I teach at a local mountain in the winter.
I knew for a long time I wanted to learn to rock climb so when my friend asked if I wanted to take a lesson with her I said yes and made the time. Now I’ve been doing it for four years, I can trad, sport, and lead climb, I do indoor and outdoor, and I actually work and teach at a local rock wall.
I wanted to learn to backpack but didn’t know anyone else who did it so when I found out my university offered backpacking classes in their outdoor program, I signed up. Later I found out a bunch of my climbing and mountain friends backpack so now we go on trips and many of us are now leaders in the program that offered that first class.
I guess that’s my trick, when I learn about a class or something I’m interested in I take it.
I sign up and I show up.
From there I tend to meet people who do things I want to do or learn and it really is like dominoes. I learned to slackline at a party. I learned about Acro Yoga because my friend threw me on her feet at climbing practice. I learned to ski (in addition to snowboarding) because I had some free time at work, and I learned to crack climb by watching and doing. If I want to be a part of something I set myself a place at the table. This simply means if I want to learn, and an opportunity is not presented, I will ask and make my own opportunity.
I think my other trick is that I make it a point to forget that I’m embarrassed or nervous. When I want something, like I want to learn to improvise on my violin (something I have yet to conquer), I have to force myself to forget that I’m the newbie. I have to choose to get over the fact that I’m going to mess up and people are going to see it. I can’t let myself be intimidated by the big kids because at one point in time they were in my exact shoes. In fact, once I’m actually really focusing on the task at hand I forget that I was intimidated or worried.
A really good example of this is when I started rock climbing. Every time I went to the gym I would go to a secluded corner so none of the really good climbers could see me moving awkwardly. But, because I am a social person, I started becoming friends with the big dogs when I wasn’t climbing, and avoiding the busy parts of the gym was no longer an option. I decided it would be fun to give climbing with those people a chance because I liked them and I ended up getting over my awkward embarrassment and improving a lot because of those people.
When I started getting really in to snowboarding I didn’t have any friends that did it so I had to make new friends. Not very many girls snowboarded so I became friends with a bunch of snowboarder dudes. I became a much better rider hanging out with them because they were focused on (well, really more obsessed with) the sport and I could follow and learn from them. It was nerve-wracking doing that, especially considering I was a hormonal teenage girl who actually cared a lot about what boys thought of me so messing up on a snowboard was a scary proposition–especially considering those boys were the types I was always crushing on.
That is an important point to make for women. If you want to do things like backpack, snowboard, rock climb, white water kayak, snow camp, backcountry ski, or really just anything hardcore, you are very likely to be the only or one of very few women. DO NOT EVER let that stop you from trying something. Don’t let that stop you from pushing your limits and doing your best.
I have seen way too many women not go snowboarding with their boyfriends or refuse to try because they were paranoid they wouldn’t look cute. This happens in lots of outdoor, male-dominated sport settings and it’s just plain silly.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter. The only person who is going to give a hoot about how you look or how you do is you. Quite frankly, when you are learning something new you are going to fall a lot; you’re going to mess up a lot, and you will not look smooth for a long time. You are learning, and what matters is the energy and attitude you bring to the table.
Most activities do have an in-crowd but don’t be scared to fly solo. If you don’t have any friends that do the thing you want to do or aren’t interested, do it yourself. You’ll probably make new friends in that new setting. All the friends I backpack with I met after I learned how.
Lastly, if you want to learn/do something new, stop putting it off. Just do it. Sign up now and make the time. If you need help finding places that do lessons hit me up in the comments and I’ll help! Life is too short to not have time for things you want and there is literally nothing you can’t do if you work for it. It’s not about accomplishing, it’s not about being the best, it’s about living your life in a way that fulfills you and in a way that leaves nothing unchecked on your bucket list. Sign up and show up. So, in the fashion of a quality Levi’s commercial, Go Forth. Seriously, watch that video.