A Post About the Future

Happy Sendtember! Unlike last Fall, when I spent all of 4 days outside on real rock, I plan to make this a much more productive season. Considering my new life in the Bay Area, I don’t think I should have very much trouble.

I welcomed in the 9th month of the year with an unexpected trip down the coast to Santa Cruz to explore Panther Beach, a place with some bouldering right by the ocean. There doesn’t seem to be much information out there in the way of established problems or lines; the common theme is “climb some rocks and have fun.”

And that’s exactly what we did.

Last night, I got a call from my good friend Alex, a fellow Earth Treks employee and all-around awesome guy. He and his traveling companions (Shirley and Katelyn, both from Maryland) got smoked out in the Valley, so they were on their way back to the Bay Area. We met up, drove up the coast in a futile attempt to catch the sunset, then crashed at my apartment.

We decided to find some fun rock in the area, and eschewing all of the more well-known crags, made the trip down to Panther Beach.

I’m certainly not complaining about the decision. It was one of the most fun days I’ve had since moving to California.

The climbing wasn’t anything spectacular. The rock wasn’t the highest quality. We mistimed the tides a little bit, so some of the climbs were under water. But none of that mattered. Bouldering on the beach, right by the ocean, combined with a good crew of fun people made the entire experience so memorable.

We had a blast making up traverses and easy drop-down boulder problems. We especially enjoyed working on moves in the awesome arch that leads from one side of the beach to the ocean. None of us made it very far, but it was so much fun to session on. And we all got to indulge in a little vanity, and more than enough pictures were taken of all of us.

Photo Credit: Katelyn Dolan

Photo Credit: Katelyn Dolan

Now, I’m back in my apartment with the other three fast asleep. I’m feeling a bit restless, but in a good way. It’s difficult to explain.

But let me try.

Days like this remind me, as many things do, of why I love climbing. Of what keeps me psyched and passionate and dedicated. It’s the whole package, from the movement to the rock to the friends and shared experiences. It’s unlike anything else I’m a part of in my life. My love for climbing is unmatched by anything else I do.

Which is, of course, perhaps a bit of a problem. I’m here in California not because of climbing, but because of my career. My education. My further development as an intellectual and a professional. I would be lying if I said I didn’t love science and public health and infectious diseases. These are things I am passionate about. But is it as much as climbing? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just different.

Many things got me here today. It hasn’t just been my education or my research experience. I like to think that Berkeley accepted me, as a whole, as a person – not just the numbers they see on a sheet of paper. And if they did only have the numbers to look at, I’m almost convinced they wouldn’t have taken me. I’ve never been the most outstanding student in the classroom – but I do believe that any deficits there are balanced out by strengths elsewhere, the “intangibles” you hear sportswriters throw around all the time.

Part of what makes me who I am is climbing. Even though I’ve only been involved with the sport for 3 years or so, there’s no denying it. The ways my life has changed and myself grown since deciding to take the plunge with climbing extend far beyond the physical.

So even though I’m here for school, I do believe what will keep me here is the climbing. The question now becomes, how do I balance this?

And this is where I draw a blank. I don’t know. What is the right balance? How do I ensure that everything gets done that needs to be accomplished, both with climbing and science? How to I sacrifice? What do I sacrifice?

I don’t know.

And that’s the answer right there. I really don’t know. And no matter how much I stress over it, no matter how much I think about it, no matter who I talk to about it I won’t know the outcome until it’s done, and the outcome is staring me in the face.

Once I can fully accept this, the better equipped I will be to move forward and deal with it.

This thinking has been sparked by conversations about a winter trip to Spain, and I do believe I need to find a way to go. I do not want to look back at my life and think “what if?”. No more of that. No more second guessing. I don’t want to throw around the hypotheticals and never have the outcome slap me upside the head.

Part of why I moved to California is because I told myself “if you don’t do it now, there’s a strong and legitimate possibility that you will never do it”. And I still believe that. I’m feeling more and more the same about travel – if I don’t do it now, I’m not getting any younger – will I really do it later in life?

Who knows. I certainly don’t know. I cannot wait until I finish this stage of my academic career to begin chasing my dreams. I don’t think that’s the way we’re meant to live life. I don’t want to look back at my mid-20s and think “what if?”. No more.

The reasons why I wouldn’t go to Spain are money, family, and lab. I’m trying to worry less about money. Yes, it’s important, but I haven’t let it rule my life to this point, and I refuse to allow that to change. Family – I love them with all of my heart, and I will see them this Fall and for Christmas; would I really spend all of my break at home anyway? Probably not.

But then, there’s the lab, and that’s a different story. It was recommended to me not to take the entire break off. And I understand. Science doesn’t respect your schedule. It doesn’t respect holidays or birthdays or prior plans. Sometimes you need to work weekends. Sometimes you need to be up at 2:30am alone. I accept this as a reality of my career, and though it’s not always fun or easy, I know it is necessary.

But I do not want to allow that to be the deciding factor in my decision for this trip. I know I am a good scientist and a dedicated student; I will find a way to make it work. That’s part of being good at what you do – planning well. And I know I can do it.

Regardless of the outcome this winter, how many more Spains will there be in my life between now and the end of graduate school? Or even the end of my life? There will be many times I will be faced with such a decision, and the answer will almost definitely be different each time. That’s part of the fun, that’s part of the adventure.

We live to grow. We live to experience. You can’t do these things in a bubble, and you can’t do these things without making the wrong decisions at times along the way. The journey shapes us, not the destination.

I cannot see into the future; I don’t know if Spain is the right decision or not. I do not know if this is a mistake.

But I know I will learn from it – one way or another, go or stay, right or wrong, I will learn from this experience.

Too many things seem to be calling me to Europe this Winter.

I think I need to find a way to answer with a “yes”.

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