Time to Re-Evaluate

Wheeler Peak, the only significant peak I have climbed this year. Photo courtesy Charles Young 2012.

This year has not gone as I would have liked. Except for the big trip to the Grand Canyon, Zion and Great Basin, I haven’t climbed — either rock or mountain — nearly as much as I would have liked. Neither have I kayaked, other than paddling in my backyard. I was supposed to climb Middle Sister a few weeks ago, but an averse withdrawal from some medication I was taking forced me (by doctor’s orders) to withdraw from that trip. Now, a few days before I was set to leave for Mt. Rainier with Charles, the guy I went with on my big trip, informed me that he was dropping out of this trip because — it still makes me angry — his twenty-something daughter got spooked since we were going as a two-man rope team instead of the ‘traditional’ three-man team. She had done ‘some research’ and decided that she knew more about climbing than I do, apparently.

This is two years in a row that I have had a major slowdown in my outdoor activities, and I do not like it. I live for outdoor recreation, and here I live in a region famous for it and I find myself going through another semi-wasted summer. It started out very promising in the spring, and then the early summer, but now it has fallen apart. I don’t know if I will be climbing any more mountains this year. I hate having to say that.

But at the same time, I have some issues to work out, and perhaps the reason why I am not getting where I want is because of these unresolved issues. I am terribly disorganized, I get serious lapses in motivation and self-discipline and I don’t exercise like I should. Being a big believer in manifestation, I know I am sending mixed signals to the universe by not doing those things.

I stopped working several years ago due to the serious and unrelenting nature of my chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia. I actually did try to get a job a year and a half ago, but I am in an odd position since I was a manager of an incredibly busy and successful business in Eugene, so I am over-qualified for most barista jobs I tried to get, and that is my main marketable skill. I have a ton experience in that area, but despite putting out a bunch of resumes, I didn’t get a single phone call. Never in my life have I ever struggled trying to gain employment.

So, no job, no money, no outdoor trips. It’s as simple as that. I probably could have rock climbed locally on a more regular basis, but my friend Kevin was hurt and then moved to Minnesota, my friend Dave, when we were giving him a space to stay when he was trying to get himself in drug recovery, started being sketchy and looking for drugs in our house, so I am not on speaking terms with him. My friend Scott now lives in Texas. I am almost out of reliable climbing partners.

For now, school, writing and family are my focus. I am forty-one years old, and time is a-wasting for me to start a career. So I just have to focus on getting my degree, continuing to write my various blogs and fiction, and know that I will be able to climb and kayak and hike like I want to when I do get hired as a journalist or in some other capacity. In addition, I also must work on being more organized, more disciplined and I really need to get myself in much better shape.

Life is full of do-overs. This is just another one.

In a year we will be moving to St. George, Utah. It is a year-round playground for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, and being in a bigger city will no doubt put me into contact with a lot more climbers, so hopefully the move will spur much more outdoor adventures.

For now, the focus needs to be inward, to make the changes I know are necessary.

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Some reflections on a life of (mostly) failure

ImageI think I should be a success. I’m an intelligent, well-read person who seemingly has all the tools to lead a successful, healthy, happy life, but the truth is, I have failed in my life, repeatedly, over and over again, no matter how talented I may seem in that particular area of failure.

First and foremost in my mind is school. I went through basically twelve years of hell in school, averaging something less than a 1.0 average, despite all my test scores placing me in the upper five to ten percent in the nation. I was told I was lazy, I was told I didn’t apply myself (that term still provokes a feeling of nausea in me when I hear someone utter it.), I was made out to be something that I wasn’t, and as far as I know, not once in that time did anyone ever seriously consider that maybe, just maybe something deeper was wrong. Despite the fact that I had a serious head injury when I was five that required me to stay in ICU two nights.

Socially it was just as bad for me, I only had a few friends, a lot of my class- and school-mates regarded me as a strange, isolated kid who was obviously intelligent but indecipherable, so in addition to feeling like a stupid, lazy piece-of-shit, I was also left feeling like an incredibly isolated, stupid, lazy piece of shit. I used to stare at myself in the mirror and call myself all sorts of horrible names, I told myself how much I loathed me, I hated the ugly image in the mirror. It is no surprise then, if I admit that by the time I was ten, I has already seriously begun contemplating killing myself.

I recall clearly the first time I almost did it. We lived on this incredibly steep hillside in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains, and we had this old Dodge pickup truck that was parked pointing straight down the steepest part of our hill, and I sat in that truck, all of ten years old, ready to pull the parking brake, put it in neutral and go to my fate.

It didn’t get easier for me as I got older. My isolation only increased when we moved to Oregon when I was fourteen and suddenly thrust into the country world of Glide, Oregon. The first two years at Glide High School were pretty bad, I was this tiny little dude and definitely got picked on a lot, but by the time I was a junior and senior, I wasn’t getting picked on too much, but I was just as isolated as ever.

Throughout this whole time, I was still essentially getting D’s and F’s, I was still just as baffling and confusing to the teachers and staff at the high school, and my depression was getting worse year by year. The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize I was depressed. I just thought I basically sucked, no one genuinely liked me, and that I would never amount to anything. Actually, that is still my ‘default’ mode that I go into when the black dog visits. In any case, I wouldn’t realize that I was clinically depressed until after I was hospitalized at nineteen.

I ended up dropping out of school when I was six months from graduation, in part because I wasn’t going to graduate anyway. and I in part because I hated it so much I just wanted to get the hell out. I wouldn’t make a serious attempt at formal education again until this year.

Which brings us to my latest failure. I enrolled in UCC for the fall term, got approved for financial aid, and took a step I honestly didn’t think I would ever seriously try. At first, it went pretty well, I felt enthusiastic and energized, I was on top of things, but as the fall progressed, my pain issues increased, dramatically so at the end of the term, and I was in so much pain I began to struggle getting to class. It didn’t help any that I was also feeling anxiety about being around a bunch of strangers when I was hurting so badly that I wasn’t sure if I could suppress a groan when it struck. Plus, I had to take a lot of pain medication, which sure as hell isn’t conducive to things like focus and concentration. Anyway, I really struggled in the lat month, I managed to get caught up in my writing 121 class, and ended up, to my surprise, with an A. But my journalism classes I only got a C and a D, which officially makes me suspended from school.

How can this be? Well, when I was in my early to mid-twenties, I made a feeble attempt at school, but being the dumb-ass that I am, I ended up not going to them at all, mostly due to my then-overwhelming fear of being in any kind of group situation. The terrible part is this: I don’t always understand how systems work, I just don’t get it, and in this case I ended up going to maybe one or two nights, but never again after that. I didn’t, however, take the vital step of withdrawing officially from my classes, not understanding that it would mean three F’s instead of just a withdrawal. So now, with my D in writing for the media (getting this grade also came down to me not turning in one final assignment, which I stupidly did not realize was our final), I am officially booted from school. I doubt I will ever try again.

All I had to do was get a C.

When I was in wrestling, I was pretty talented physically, I was quick and could get take-downs on a lot of opponents, but as talented physically as I was, I was mentally incompetent. I would give up, beating someone but good, then getting tired and giving up, almost always getting pinned in the process. My friend Brandon told me it was the most aggravating thing to watch me wrestle.

When I joined Tae Kwon Do when I was sixteen, things began to shift, but not right away. I took to the martial arts, utilizing my quickness to rapidly establish myself as one of the best in our little dojo within just a few months, but when I went to tournaments, I initially was only able to finish second or third, I was usually too wound up, I was too blindly aggressive and could never get the win. This went from yellow belt through my blue belt. Then, when I was a brown belt, I finally went to a tournament with a relaxed attitude, and I not only won, I dominated. I became a more passive fighter, relying on my defensive skills and preying on my opponents mistakes. After that, something clicked in me and I went on to win five of the next six tournaments. But a tragedy was to soon alter my psychology for many years to come.

I had a friend in high school named Lynn Powell, we were never close, but for a time she babysat across the street, and we would hang out sometimes. She was always really kind to me, and I always felt cared about by her, not a common feeling for me in those days, and I always cherished her friendship for that. She had this vibrant spark to her, and one always felt a little better being around her, at least I always did. So when the news of her death in a horrific car accident reached me that terrible morning so many years ago, I literally went into shock, I couldn’t believe it, not her, not Lynn. I was shaken to the core by her passing.

After that, I really passed into a deep sorrow that I wouldn’t come fully out of for a long time, and I lost the joy I had for the martial arts, and most everything else too. So soon I wasn’t practicing, but I vowed that I would go back, and that I would win a tournament in her honor. After several months of sorrow, I did return, and trained for about one month before entering a tournament that just happened to be occurring locally, at Douglas High School.

What I most remember about this tournament was the fact that I was in a nearly unconscious state when I sparred, I was so fully in ‘the zone’, I remembered almost nothing of the actual matches. I know two of my three matches were stopped because I was beating my opponents by five points, a sort of ‘mercy’ rule some tournaments use. The next thing I know, I am being handed a trophy, I start crying, and I don’t stop crying for half an hour. I had done it. I had won it for Lynn. Later I would take the small trophy and leave it at her grave.

I never seriously trained in TKD again. I was less than six months from testing for my black belt, and I gave up, I quit, never to return.

My daughter Zoe’s middle name is Lynn, and it is partly in my old friend’s memory that she was given that name.

End of part I