“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstien
Finding balance in life is hard. With outdoor sports, I typically devote myself to a singular pursuit, rather than participating in multiple activities. When I am interested in climbing, I climb until my fingers hurt; when cycling has my attention, I ride my bike until the seat actually looks comfortable; and in the winter, I ski to the detriment of other activities I enjoy such as ice climbing and hiking. As the years tick by, finding balance not only in recreation but also in life has become increasingly challenging. Things like work, social commitments, and general adulting all seem to interfere with getting outside, improving, and checking items off my bucket list.
While working on achieving balance during the week is one thing, finding balance on the weekends is another. I have made peace with the idea that sometimes work will override an afternoon run or trip to the rock gym. However, losing a weekend in the mountains to a BBQ, a wedding (my own included), or social function is incredibly painful. Even though I almost always have fun at these events, I always feel like I’m falling behind on my plans and lagging in skill and fitness to my partners.
Resting presents a strange inner conflict. I know that relentless pursuit is unhealthy—good for neither the body nor the soul. I also am coming to understand that learning how to interact with people you’re not tied into a rope with or struggling to follow up an icy slope is an important life skill. But the thought of slowing down and doing something else is not one I like to entertain. Often, when I find myself somewhere other than the mountains on a weekend, I will be contently sitting on the beach or next to the grill when my thoughts inevitably wander to what everyone else is doing? Or even worse, I’ll start to scroll through social media and discover that so-and-so just finished a half marathon, hiked the Pemi-loop, or sent the climb I had been itching to do. Instantaneously I am filled with regret for not using my time more “productively.”
As I write this, I wonder if I went to the mountains and skipped these “commitments,” would I find myself on some wind-blown ridge wishing I was listening to that funny wedding toast or in the backyard enjoying a beer and a burger? Is being there to witness the achievements of my friends and family, celebrate their successes, support them in their time of need, and enjoy their company as paramount to fulfilling my desires and achieving my goals? Reflecting on this idea, I don’t think my achievements would mean as much without being able to share my successes and failures with those people.
Furthermore, I know that even as I tick items off my bucket list, the list will never shrink. Climbing a dream route or sending a route at a goal grade only leads to new routes and harder grades, long hikes result in longer hikes, and climbing big mountains is a path to even greater mountains. Even though missing a day in mountains for other activities at times feels burdensome and like I am losing ground, the reality is that the bucket list is never empty, but always refilling itself.
Finding balance might be my most difficult challenge these days, but it’s also a testament to living a full and satisfying life. While I prefer to socialize while suffering in the mountains, I also enjoy spending time with friends who would rather play a casual game of a cornhole in the backyard. Although I still have a long way to go to achieve balance, I am going to keep moving, ticking things off my bucket list, spending time with friends, and making the most out of the time I have.
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Read more of my outdoor writing at goEast.com