The day has come for me to shake ‘the norm’ of post-graduate life. It is also a time to pursue a dream that many climbers fantasize about but very very few muster the courage to commit to. I mean that in a matter-of-fact and sympathetic way. Everyone has their reasons, obviously ‘the system’ is supposed to be enticing and comfortable and easy to get sucked into and even easier to stay sucked in. Honestly, I don’t blame anyone for more or less selling (or trading) their dreams for a family and a desk. It’s just not the life I want, not now anyway.
Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? Cold comfort for change? Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in the cage?
For a little background, there is a whole other realm as to why I’m embarking on this journey. A lot of it has to do with socio-political strife and disparity in the accepted ethics of my chosen field and the way I was trained (as a psychotherapist). I’d like to keep this blog on the lighter side and focus on the joy, freedom, and fulfillment climbing brings me. Of course I’ll be sharing plenty of tips and lessons learned along the way, but if you want to hear the longer, grittier version of this manifesto, then follow these instructions:
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet me at one of the wonderful crags in the southeast U.S.
Adornments of food, beer, and good stories are welcomed.
Climb, camp, and hang out.
Let the comradery ensue.
How does one become or go about becoming a dirtbag? For me, it was, fortunately a choice of will rather than force. I found myself at such a time in life where the combustion of several events sent the beckoning call of the open road loud and clear to my ears. Of the many things we’re asked / learned from Fight Club, one is
How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight? (Note: I was a mixed martial artist and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner long before I was a climber). I’ve also heard it said that in climbing, “It’s not the rock we conquer, but ourselves.” Many similar sentiments can be found in Arno Ilgner’s “The Rock Warrior’s Way”.
I found myself having recently graduated with my master’s degree and soon to have an expiring lease at my apartment and really no where to go or to be. I had a job, but the hours were too flexible to rely on for budgeting purposes. In the final days of ‘normal life’ I lamented to a fellow climber:
Three months ago I graduate with a master's degree with a 3.9 GPA, earned an award from my department that is given out less than once per year, more than doubled the requisite clinical hours for the license I'm to apply for, as well as not only met the licensing requirements for the State of Georgia, but nearly every other state in the U.S. as well. I can't find a full-time job, fast food workers are protesting for $15 / hour, and it costs more to camp (commercially) than it does rent an apartment (trust me or do the math yourself). That is all madness!
Fortunately my current job requires me to travel quite a bit so I’m not tied to any one particular locale (within Georgia). To wrap up a very long and dutifully complicated story this all lead to me setting my sights on pursuing “the dream” of being a dirtbag rock climber. I set up a P.O. Box, packed what I could into my car, threw out everything else, upgraded some of my camping gear, turned in my apartment keys at 5:00 p.m and that was that. I hit the open road to set up shop in northwest Georgia. As the great Bob Seger put it:
Here I am on the road again. Here I am upon the stage. There I go playing the star again. There I go, turn the page.