When You’re In The Mountains
When I was working in the crystal store, I would always offer black tourmaline. It’s an unassuming stone — black and chunky, glimmering only in the best positions. Without the hype of its benefits, I would be surprised if a single stone would ever be sold. But its benefits were second to none, and thus it became a must-have product.
It’s like a mirror, I’d say to curious crowds, holding handfuls of stones dug from the earth. It will show you everything you’re hiding from yourself.
I’ve always owned a few, but I’ve rarely put the crystals to work — the things I hide from myself I hide for good reason: I don’t know if I have the strength to handle them.
It was in the mountains reading Kerouac, black coffee in hand and bacon sizzling on the tiny stove that I came to understand a few things about myself. Maybe trees, caffeine, and Japhy Ryder’s poetry are my black tourmaline.
Firstly, it was that I’d lied. The piece I’d written about confidence which no one read (not confidence-inspiring) but a publication picked up (making up for the lack of eyes – at least someone liked it) was in part, a fallacy.
There was truth behind my statements, and honesty in the words written, but the weeks that followed – the weeks leading up to that weekend in the mountains – proved my lack, therefore distinct inability, to write on the topic of being confident.
Secondly, it showed me what I needed to do.
Maybe it was the book, or the mountains, the long-coming conversations that car rides bring, or just the tipping point for the weight that rested on my shoulders, but it was in the mountains when I finally stopped hiding.
Mountains are a catalyst for change. This isn’t new to me. In fact, I discussed it here, here, and here. Perhaps not as eloquently as I am now — I’ve never had to put this much thought into it before — but I’ve always known.
I'll grow stagnant near the shores, but make my choices in the trees — it’s poetic and unfortunate; stunting my growth and keeping me treading water.
The weirdest and most honest moment was understanding that the changes that I wanted — needed — to make to my life were ones that would put me back in the exact same space I was in in February of 2020. Ordinary times.
Like every single person on the planet, I let my life derail and shift off track in the safest way possible, and now I just need to crawl back to where I started. I wrote earlier in the year about how 2021 could be it. The time where we take the leaps we spent months in solitude contemplating. It’s not until I’m back in the mountains, sitting shotgun as my boyfriend drives us down the pot-hole-filled winding highway that I admit to myself that it’s not the year that will make the change. I have to make the change.
Using Covid as a scapegoat for anxiety gets old after a year. There comes a point where you have to take responsibility.
There are two things that have been holding me back from making the changes I want in my life, and at first, I had no intention of sharing them with anyone reading because it seemed as if it could be too real, or too personal, but to be honest, if this isn’t the place to be real and personal, then I don’t know what is.
At 22, I don’t know how to drive. I remember reading about Shannon Ashley learning how to handle herself behind the wheel over a host of essays, and being so immensely proud because I know exactly how hard this task can be for some people.
The mere thought of getting behind the wheel gives me the worst anxiety — throat closing up, hands shaking, tears welling behind nervous eyes. Most of the jobs relating to my field require a driver's license.
At 22, I feel like I’ll never get a job in my field, and not solely based on the driver's license phenomena — or lack thereof — but based on the combination of a lack of confidence, the interruption of my path due to Covid (okay, I guess we can use the pandemic as a scapegoat for a few things), and my sheer anxiety about applying to jobs and getting rejected.
In both cases, I’m very aware that it’s my lack of confidence and fear of failure that holds me back. It’s these facts about myself that I hide; the things I never wanted The Dharma Bums or gemstones to show me in their reflective surfaces.
I’ve never wanted to face failure, so I’ve never taken the leaps. I’ve never wanted to face rejection, so I’ve never asked the questions. Call it self-preservation to be classy, but it’s avoidance in its finest form. I’ve let myself drift down easy rather than swimming upstream, despite knowing that there’s nothing for me along the road of the easy way out.
The first few months of total lockdown gave me the out I needed to not put the work in because hey, no one’s putting the work in now. But here we are a year later and not only have I made a step, but I’ve barely been able to look in the right direction.
It’s not just the things you hide from yourself, it’s the steps you’ll go to protect yourself from reality. You are your own worst enemy and your greatest defender wrapped into one. It’s hard to allow yourself to get hurt for the potential of greatness because you know all too well that greatness might not be in your repertoire.
In fact, rarely do we let ourselves imagine it, lest we’re in moments like I was then, a book from the greats in hand.
Reading Kerouac is not unlike listening to Pet Sounds, or summiting a mountain. It gives you a feeling of aptitude and power as if you’ve uncovered the secrets to the world— moments of human greatness always spark inspiration.
I don’t know if I’ll do the things I need to do. People rarely do. Only the strongest of us all will push past the point of resistance, push past our own selves standing in our way and do the hard thing to make our lives better. A lot of us will go with whatever flow we found ourselves in. For now, I’m keeping my head above the water. But nothing will change unless I swim against the current. Maybe get out of the water altogether.
It was in the mountains where I made a list. Mentally, I made a list — the act of putting words to paper is sometimes too tough a task when you’ve only just allowed them to exist in your mind — while nordic skiing, the kind of activity that allows just enough monotonous movement and physical exhaustion that your mind can wander in all the right places.
There are numerous steps to take towards remedying the baggage that holds me down and trust me, I’m working on it. But even returning to the sea made me feel less motivated, a little bogged down, like the saltwater in the air creates a force stronger than gravity. Each step is a little harder, but I’ll make them,
When you’re in the mountains, you make changes. It seems too common of a theme to say I’m the only one that feels it. Maybe it’s the air or the altitude, but something switches inside you. You see it all clearer, you understand just a little more. Maybe you just can’t run from yourself anymore.
So I’m done running. It’s time to make moves.