When I was a kid, I distinctly remember loving to climb, especially in places that were not meant to be climbed. Whether it was going up a staircase without touching the stairs, scaling to the highest branches of a tree, or finding ways to get onto the roof of our house — the bigger the challenge, the better.
Fast forward 25 years to last weekend. I visited Joshua Tree National Park with David and Fabian. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it — the park is filled with beautiful walking trails, massive boulders, and mountainsides.
Kid Mike would have been in climbing heaven. But to my surprise, that hunger to climb up and jump off everything in sight was mostly replaced with unsteady feet and a serious case of nerves.
At the top of some boulders, I found myself suddenly experiencing a fear of heights. I had the not very legitimate worry that a strong gust of wind might come and suddenly make me lose my footing. And maybe it’s my new fatherly instincts (Mala is now 9 months!) but I really wanted Dave and Fabian to not climb to the top of a narrow point or jump between the boulders.
At one point, I realized that 11-year-old me and 36-year-old me were at odds — these were all things I loved to do. My childhood self was fearless, ready to scale any obstacle with a sense of energy (and maybe a little bit of naivete). But my adult self is more hesitant. He knows what it means to climb and fall.
To try and fail.
More experience, but also more baggage.
Today, I am discovering more wisdom from that younger me. The “Mikey” who was not just willing but EXCITED to go outside his comfort zone.
While I’d like this story to have a heroic and tidy ending where I faced my fears and did some sweet flip off a boulder and everything was all right, this isn’t that story.
I didn’t do any wild climbs or jumps. But I did leave Joshua Tree with a realization of my fears and an acknowledgement that the irrational ones will take practice to overcome, and the others may be there for a good reason.
What was your favorite physical activity as a kid? Do you still do it? If not, why not?
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