Got Instagram Climbing Envy?

What can I say about Maryland’s Eastern Shore from a climbing perspective? Well, suggesting that it’s not exactly an ideal location would be putting it gently. ‘Sucks,’ is more the word that comes to mind.

The nearest gym is an hour and change away, and charges $22 a pop. The nearest crag is two hours’ drive, and features mostly 5.0-5.10 toproping on 30 foot-tall river-polished schist. You’re not allowed to place bolts, cracks are few and far between and protection is sketchy even when placed well. If I really want to get in some good pitches, the New River Gorge is a seven-hour drive, the Gunks is five. All of this is to say, I don’t get much climbing in when I’m home visiting. I can literally watch my gut grow flabby.

And yet, this painfully flat and sprawling suburbia has a gravitational pull I can neither understand, nor resist. I don’t know why my parents insist on continuing to live in the DC area post-retirement, or why my sister settled down out here with her husband and three kids, or why I fell in love with a girl whose family is thoroughly entrenched on the Eastern Shore. It makes perfect sense to me that they should all move to Durango, or Bishop or Leavenworth. But somehow, they don’t see my obsession with rocks as a valid reason to change and uproot their entire lives. So I’m stuck with HERE.

The social media age is the hardest one yet for people like myself who fall prey to that deadly sin: envy. Each day, I am inundated with pictures and updates from hundreds of people I barely know, if I even know them at all. I salivate over their Spanish limestone, their Patagonian granite, their home crag, their ice fest, their anything climbing at all. I start feeling crazy, begin to imagine I am wasting my life, get antsy, and plan rashly to pack everything up and go at once.

The truth, though—and I know it’s true, because I’ve done the pack-everything-and-go before—is that packing up and changing your life in a blink of an eye because of someone else’s vacation photos won’t necessarily make you happy.

The truth is, I’m not stuck with HERE. I chose HERE. And I choose it again and again for very obvious and mentally stable reasons. There are people here who love me, whom I love, and who—in spite of their stubborn refusal to move to a mountain town—I love being around. I am fortunate to have such wonderful people in my life, and each year I’m lucky to be able to return to this part of the world, where so many of them live.

We all have jobs, commitments, attachments and responsibilities that at any moment can feel like a horrible burden compared to our happy-go-lucky friend’s #vanlife. But sacrificing all else for the eternal traveling/climbing lifestyle can take a toll. Very few people eschew everything for climbing year after year. It might look bad ass or romantic in climbing films or history books. But the everyday reality of sacrificing close friends and family in exchange for simply climbing hard and racking up “back in the day” stories might not look so glamorous after a few years or decades. I don’t want that for myself, and my guess is, neither do you.

The gravity that I can’t account for that keeps bringing me back here to the Eastern Shore again and again? It’s the weight of the desire to strive for something more: to invest time and energy into other people, to work hard toward my chosen profession, to bang keys on a keyboard instead of taking advantage of the “suns out guns out” conditions. It’s the weight of wanting to aim goals beyond simply sending my proj, and scoring the next great dumpster haul from the grocery store in Moab.

Next time you find yourself green with envy at such-and-such Instagram post, or so-and-so’s Facebook spray, put down the device. Walk away from the screen. Pick up a book, ask a loved one how their day is going, take the dog for a walk. Whatever. The point is, stick with your guns. If we have enough time and money to define ourselves as something as frivolous as “climbers,” we’re probably fortunate enough to be where we are—at least in part—because we chose to be here. And most of the time, we have good reasons behind our choices. As do those friends we might think we envy. They are THERE—good for them, let them be. I know, where they are is sunny and blue-skied and dripped with tufas. But you are HERE, and it’s exactly where you are supposed to be.

So don’t be THERE, be HERE. Not just in body, but in mind and soul as well. My guess is that if we all did that, we’d all find that we’re exactly where we wanted to be all along.