I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for a long time, but after taking a bit of a tumble this weekend, I felt like it was a really good time to explain why I’m a rock climber…
So many people find it surprising that I’m a climber upon first meeting me, particularly when we’re meeting via the blog or social media. It’s pretty safe to say that the Jojotastic-version of Joanna is different than weekend-in-the-mountains Joanna… the latter version is much less girly, or as we call it in the climbing world, I’m a bit of a dirt bagger. I don’t mind eating an apple before it’s been washed (and after it’s taken a tumble down some rocks), I can go days without showering if I have to, and I really freaking love sleeping under the stars. I’ve always debated how much of that facet of my life to share in this space — I’m not exactly an outdoors blogger, nor do I want to be one. Mostly, I just want to share my store of how climbing fuels me as a person and as a creative.
The fact is that I feel vastly more creative when I’ve spent time outdoors. During my time in Philly, I really struggled with this because I was doing amazing design work, but not filling my tank at all. I didn’t have friends who wanted to go hiking or climbing, so I just sort of… stopped doing what I love. This coincided with some really painful emotional issues like major depression, too. Eventually, I reached a point where I was totally depleted and just could not produce anymore. I was running on empty and it was a bad scene. It felt like I had nothing. My move to California definitely helped in this regard — as soon as I relocated, I was hiking a lot, spending time at the beach, that sort of thing… but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t rock climbing. When I moved back to Seattle in March that I resumed my pattern of climbing 3-5 times a week. Now that I’m back in the climbing gym and going on outdoor trips every weekend, I feel incredible, like I can tackle freaking ANYTHING.
And that’s the thing…
Climbing makes me feel insanely powerful. The feeling is super straightforward: if I can go up there, I can do anything. This gives me a sense of power, not just in climbing, but in every facet of my life. I’m confident in business, my personal worth, relationships… I know that deep down, I’ve GOT this because I climb MOUNTAINS. Put another way, I feel so much more secure and confident with myself as a person when I’m climbing consistently. There’s almost this brute force, primal element to it, to be honest. Kinda feels a bit caveman-y, actually. And I love it. When I’m not climbing, I start to second-guess myself and my abilities, something that never feels good.
Then there’s my happiness level when I’m climbing consistently and regularly. It’s not even just happiness, but zen. The best way to describe it is a feeling similar to how runners describe their high post-run or how yoga practicers feel totally blissed out after a good session. And I’m not alone in this thinking; the NY Times recently shared this article about how even just walking in nature changes the brain. Lots of food for thought.
And lastly, I’ve never really thought of myself as a person who ‘needs’ that adrenaline rush, but when I really sit and think about it… I totally am. I crave adventure. My bones and my soul and my heart need it in a very pure way. Combine this with my need to always push myself to be better and climbing is just what I’ve always needed. My mantra is to always be pushing myself, always be reaching for more and more, never letting myself grow complacent. Ever.
So really, it shouldn’t be a surprise at all that I positively adore being a climber. Even now, as I sit here writing this with an ice pack on my knee and an MRI scheduled for Saturday, all I can think about is when I can get back out there. Yes, I took a big fall this weekend, but no, it’s not going to affect how or why I climb at all. If anything, this minor setback will fuel me to get back onto the rock stronger than ever before.
all photos via my Instagram.
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