Hometown: St. Charles, MO
Fort Lewis is enjoying a thirteenth day of sunny skies and balmy January temperatures between 45 and 50 degrees. It is early Monday morning, the beginning of the third week of the semester. Each day is starting to blur into the next as a comfortable routine has developed. My mornings begin with my cat sprawled outside my bedroom door staring at me with suspicious eyes. Over the next 14-16 hours, I exist in a fairly rigid schedule. The colorful balls in the air all have labels, which read: classes, research, tutoring, studying, ambassador, friend, roommate, climbing, cooking, chores, etc.
Of the many elements, these balls in the air, the one that offers the most challenge is the one labeled balance. For me, that balance represents time to breathe and play. I play in the Southwest and the San Juan Mountains by backpacking, climbing, biking and kayaking. Breathing or relaxing, that comes easiest when I am with close friends. My smile emerges when the noise of civilization falls away, replaced by nature.
So, here I am, week three of the semester and as usual, finding time to play will be one of the more difficult challenges over the next three months. Luckily, I live in a place, Durango, which has some of the best access to natural resources in the United States. My entire community of friends is constantly in motion. Stepping out of my door each day, it only takes minutes to find risk, adventure, peace, and life free of our footprint on the land. This past weekend, driving by a packed trailhead that serves a local bouldering area, I was reminded that at Fort Lewis, a good portion of the students live by a golden rule: they work hard and play hard. I am surrounded by incredibly strong athletes whom in many cases are the narrowest step away from achieving sponsorship in their respective disciplines. I am not kidding. It is a pretty awesome place which is constantly inspiring me.
Looking back, it’s 1:30 on Saturday. A couple dusty crash pads have been tossed underneath a bouldering problem that has never gone well for me. I’m weak and I know it. My inner voice begins to dish out excuses, preparing for defeat. At least three years have gone by since I worked on any of the problems in front of me. Mentally, the buzz fades away as I flow through the moves and find myself staring at the lip and thinking about high feet and the top out. It’s been nearly 18 months since my knee was in any condition where it felt safe to take a fall from any height. Angst fades to nothingness, I find myself standing on top gasping for air and once again appreciating how much I love to play in Durango. The bliss lingers for a moment before my inner voice, rudely reminds me that it’s time to start thinking about how much studying I can finish the rest of the day.