Identity crises are never pleasant, especially when they happen 200’ up a frozen chunk of ice. Ideally, this would be different. But that’s never my luck. Do normal people have the same? Here’s the situation: It seems I’m constantly asking if I like something, or if I want to like something. And that’s not totally true because I really don’t do that anywhere else in my life except in climbing. I would love to proclaim totally and utter continuous happiness and bliss while going vertical, but often times this is the opposite. And then there is all the time that surrounds climbing. It’s hard to rationalize the endeavor constantly but that is exactly what this sport/pastime/obsession mandates. Because you have to want it, and you will be tested again and again to see how badly.
I’m in New Hampshire ice climbing and surprising myself with how much I like it. This should not be surprising, but it staggers me as I smile into falling chunks of ice and wet snow and through a 50-minute belay in -20 windchill. I’m happy in this. And that happiness is like a balm soothing something I didn’t know was rough and scratchy inside me.
In an ideal world, if we were normal—if I were normal, I think I would just move forward. I would go, strive, do—and not always evaluate. But I’m one of those people who likes to wiggle a loose tooth because it hurts and feels good at the same time. So when I get those moments of balance, when I know that what I want to do, what I want to want to do, and what I am doing all line up, then—I stop. Note it.