The importance of trying

I was in Hueco Tanks, Texas when the gears started turning once again after coming to a screeching halt a few days prior.

After learning about the situation between Morgean and I, the only thing I knew to do was to climb a rock. But when I showed up at the climbing shop in Hueco Tanks that Sunday, I was told that there was more required to climb the rocks there than driving to them. I needed to get a reservation first, which couldn’t happen until the following day. Sunday was spent in a whirlpool of thoughts instead. That evening after cooking dinner, I began setting up Dumbo for sleep mode. I moved the crash pad and other contents from the rear to the front, and flipped out the lower bed. After crawling into the sleeping bag and laying wide-eyed for nearly ten minutes, I sat up and knew what to do next.

Ever since I began my climbing therapy a few months ago, I have been applying what I learn from life’s greatest teacher to other aspects of life. I once believed that if you were trying, you were trying too hard; in a way, I think that is a useful bit of knowledge. But more frequently when climbing, I have found that only by trying as hard as I can, will I succeed in holding on to that miniscule crimper and moving to the next one. Then and only then, can I hold on to that same crimper by learning to try less.

When I sat up in bed, I had related my situation with Morgean to climbing. She was that tiny crimper, and I had put my finger pads on its cold, sharp edge, felt doubt, and let that doubt take over. Every time I do that when climbing, I fall off of the wall and regret not trying harder. This situation was no different. So I decided not to give up. At ten PM, I started up Dumbo and began driving from El Paso to Mammoth Lakes. Google Maps told me I would take seventeen hours to get there, but Google Maps isn’t aware of the vicious speeds that Dumbo’s air-cooled engine isn’t capable of. Seventeen hours would be a miracle.

I’ve never driven for such an extended period in my life, but that evening, I knew I could make it happen. I drove straight through the night and into the following day, only making stops for food, gas, and toilet usage. I ate trail mix, eggs, and sandwiches from the van while on the move. There was a lot of quiet time. Music is good sometimes for a drive, but I’ve found that I can drive longer (and often more enjoyably) in silence. But the silence in the van was not a reflection of my headspace. My mind was a typhoon of thoughts as I tried to piece together what I would say when I was sitting in front of Morgean. I ran through countless scenarios of why she meant so much to me and why I left Moab like I did.

When I was three hours away, my mind was exhausted. I was on the edge of complete mental and emotional collapse because I finally realized that I couldn’t say anything which would do any good. I had almost broke into tears off and on throughout the drive as I recalled various experiences with her in Moab that brought a smile to my face. But the obvious truths were still there. I haven’t stopped thinking about her since leaving Moab. There were things which I learned from our connection that have given me the desire to be a better person. My perspective on lots of things has shifted towards something more positive. And lastly, I really like how I feel when I choose to help people by sharing my happiness.

The back half of the drive was a pure test of endurance, navigating the traffic of Los Angeles, then high winds on the 395 that were heavily coercing Dumbo to frolick in the desert off the side of the road; but the last hour up the mountain was brutal. It was pitch black, the winds were still menacing, the roads were covered in snow and ice, and sometimes the fog and blowing snow would grow so fierce that I would watch the car fifty feet in front of me completely disappear. I was the captain of a small fishing boat as he held on for dear life at the wheel, watching through the front glass as an army of gigantic waves rushed towards him. I had been driving for twenty one hours, yet I found myself laughing maniacally and cheering at the windshield because I was doing something that most people would consider lunacy, and all to go tell a woman something I couldn’t begin to put into words.

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The mountains which line the sides of 395 en route to Bishop. They’re gargantuan creatures; Nature’s display of the fine line between beauty and utter madness.

Morgean was sitting in her van when I slid sideways into the Rite Aid parking lot in Mammoth Lakes. It was now close to seven PM on Monday. We got out of our cars and hugged, then began chatting about how life on the mountain was going for her, and my drive up to Mammoth. My brain was still a hopeless mess of things I wanted to say, yet didn’t know if they would do any good.

It went about as well as I expected, meaning I stumbled over words with almost comical sadness and managed to upset Morgean once again. As the conversation came to an end, I became more and more angry at myself for wasting her time on discussing something so seemingly selfish and melancholy. I just wanted out because I was doing more harm than good. Morgean and I said goodbye after she showed me a place to park for the evening. I set up for bed, and was instantly asleep when my head hit the pillow. I had been awake for forty hours.

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It was just under 30°F when I woke up Tuesday morning, but compared to those cold mornings when I drove through Oklahoma, it felt plausibly warm.

When I woke up the following morning with a fresh mind, I thought about what happened the night prior. I was reminded that everything in life happens for a reason, but that reason isn’t necessarily the one I may be hoping for. That’s something that I genuinely love about this existence. I don’t want to know what the reward will be for trying. To me, trying for something is done for the sake of it; the prize at the end, whatever it may be, is just that sweet sugary frosting slathered on top that will put me into a celebratory sugar coma when I’m done. This time around, that frosting wasn’t Morgean, like I had imagined it to be. The frosting was about doing something crazy. It was about driving for twenty two hours on no sleep and little food, through heinous conditions in a VW bus aptly named Dumbo at sixty miles per hour. It was about reminding myself that I began this chapter of my life partially because the last one had grown easy, and living this way was the largest challenge imaginable. There is no reward at the end for living in a van, down by the river. It is done for the sake of trying, because in a way, that’s all life is about.

 

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