When I decided to go climbing in Vantage I decided to go because I needed to go, not because I particularly wanted to. Most of the time, I go to work during the week, and on the weekends I want to be by Forrest’s side. I want to spend that time simply being with him. I don’t have a whole lot of friends nearby so doing things on my own has mostly amounted to an adventure to the Cabinets with just Sprocket and a few trips back to Tacoma. Jumping into a new group really isn’t my thing. But for this trip, I wanted to go climbing. I hadn’t been in a long time, and wanted to give it another shot. So I decided to go. And it was fun. But in a lot of ways, it was also hard.
Immediately upon driving into the camping area I was confronted with my awkwardness in meeting new people. I wasn’t totally sure which camp was the WCN one…I’d briefly forgotten about the pink flamingo as a marker…and found myself working up the guts to ask two girls if they were there for the WCN meetup. They weren’t. I felt awkward.
And then I had to do it all over again with the actual group I was looking for. The girls (Amy, Claire, Allison, Traisa, Dawn, and Laurel) were as welcoming as I could ever hope for. Give me a group of people I know and I’m loud and in the middle of things (often bordering on brassy but hey, that’s me) put me in a new group and every moment I have to push myself to be friendly. Sometimes that push means talking too much. Sometimes it means being unable to identify what topics are of interest to those I’m talking to.
On top of the meeting people nervousness, I had to balance my climbing nervousness as well. I like to be good at things but it’s pretty hard to be good at something you haven’t done in a long time. I also had only really ever climbed in the gym and even at my best, in the gym, I only managed to climb 5.10s proficiently. I wasn’t going to be good. I experienced cramping hands on 5.8s. A climber in another group pointed out my “Elvis leg*” on a 5.9. I felt unbalanced a lot of the time. I was unsure. My arms and legs tired quickly. And then I had to come down and be friendly and thankful to those who had lead the route for me while mentally I was trying to reconcile myself to my performance.
When I was up on that final climb with my leg shaking, unable to progress further up the wall, I admitted to the situation and asked to be lowered to the ground. I was sad to have not succeeded on my final climb of the weekend, but emotionally I was spent without any more pluck for chatting or attempting to climb. It was really freeing to head out on my own for some afternoon exploring before I headed back home to my boys.
My difficulty in “putting myself out there” is nothing new (apparently meeting my fiance through Craigslist was some crazily out of character thing I did). In high school and college I was more of the “falling into” friends that I was in close proximity to (sat next to, lived near) and not the go out and meet them variety. Clubs were supposed to be the way but I always found it difficult to find my way to the “center” (only one of my close college friends, a softball teammate, came about this way).
I feel like I can combat the fear of failing (in climbing, in blogging, etc.) but the social fear is a lot harder. It’s a lot harder to shake the “I’m afraid they don’t really like me” feeling. I feel like I’m likeable which means that I really should probably take risks like this more often. Because they’re not really risks, they’re adventures. (Remind me of that later, okay?)
What things do you find hard that are really just “normal” things that a “grown-up” should be able to handle?
* Elvis leg: n. the uncontrollable shake of a leg uncontrollably during a climb. Often due to a combination of nerves and overcontraction of muscles. Also called sewing machine leg. (Climbing Dictionary)