My now ex-boyfriend and I broke up in March. My life changed a bit at that moment. Yes, I was your typical emotional mess after a break-up. Questioning if I could ever love or trust again. Wondering if I will ever be good enough. Hating him in the process. But I was also scared. Not just scared of future relationships and being single but being scared that I would lose my connection with the Outdoors.
Even though I have always been drawn to adventuring in the great outdoors, I was never brave enough to do it on my own. I think it was partially due to Anxiety and depression casting a shadow over all the decisions. Questioning if I was worthy of trying to rock climb or camp. Depression stealing energy from me so I had no motivation to even try. My ex-boyfriend, let’s call him Jack, gave me a push to challenge myself outside.
Jack was the first one to take me rock climbing. He challenged me on longer hikes. He taught me how to winter Hike. He taught me how to camp. We did numerous trips together throughout the United States where we camped, hiked, and climbed our way through. He was my adventure partner. Then, after the break-up, he was gone.
I started questioning myself. My self-confidence level went to where I was before him for a bit. I started wondering if I even enjoyed the outdoors. Maybe I just liked it because of him. Maybe I did all these things – climb, hike, camp- just to prove to him that I was worthy of dating him. That I was only fooling myself throughout the relationship. That a woman like me wasn’t meant for the outdoors. That soon that life will fade away just like Jack did.
After the breakup, it seemed that I had a complete lapse of judgment. Apparently, I forgot about all the things I did without him during the relationship. I forgot how once I figured it out, how at peace being in the outdoors lead me to feel. I forgot how it eased my anxiety and depression. Instead, I remembered the moments where I had an anxiety attack on a hike or climb. I remembered the moments where I made a mistake. I remembered the moments where I got hurt.
I wasn’t willing to give up so quickly. I still had some grit left over. I decided to take a big jump outside my comfort zone and sign up for a rock-climbing class in New Hampshire. As the time approached, my anxiety started to heighten. I questioned if I should bail on the class. I wondered if I should camp. Should I show up the day of? Should I do something the night before? Could I handle doing things on my own? Am I even going to enjoy myself? What if I don’t know as much as I thought I did? What if I’m going to make a fool of myself? What if I lied to myself this entire relationship? Honestly, I could go on.
My self-doubt was tenfold, since the breakup, I did some small hikes locally. This would be my first trip since the breakup. I would be going alone. I always depended on Jack to make the plans. To organize. To find the hikes. To know where to go. Now I just had me to depend on. At the moment, I didn’t have much faith in me.
I took this weekend as a process. After I signed up for the class, I then had to decide if I should do a weekend trip by myself or go up for the day. Even though I wasn’t a fan of the decision, I decided to make a small weekend trip of it. I then decided to stay in a hotel rather than camp. Yes, financially speaking camping makes more sense. And yes, I felt lame for choosing to stay in a hotel over camping. But I also realized that I was already stepping extremely outside my comfort zone. I have never camped by myself, and I didn’t want this weekend, already filled with anxiety be the weekend I attempt it.
After logistics were planned out, then came the fun details. What the hell was I going to do on my free day? Could I handle doing it alone? Could I even handle planning it? Was I going to cry? Through overwhelming research, I decided to hike the Mount Percival Loop. It was a popular hike. I had the trails down. I had a map loaded. What I didn’t know is that this hike is on the Terrifying 25 list for the more challenging trails of the White Mountains. The loop I did had a rickety ladder and a cave you had to slide through with also a ton of rocky scrambles and boulders.
On Saturday morning, I woke up early and drove up to the hike solo. My anxiety was high. I was nervous about the entire weekend. My mind didn’t stop going for the first half of the drive. I wondered if this was all a mistake. When I reached New Hampshire, my attitude did a 180. My spirits were lifted being surrounded by mountains. Then I finally arrived at the hike.
The thing was, the hike went smoothly. I didn’t have anxiety. I made friends along the way. I had tons of fun. Most of my anxiety was just getting there and planning it. I ended up going to a brewery by myself afterward. I got ice cream. I looked around the town. Then I chilled in my hotel for the rest of the night. But then, I had the anxiety of the rock-climbing class the next day.
Would I still actually like rock climbing? Am I going to look like an idiot? Is it going to be awkward? Will the other participants be nice or judgmental? Will I fit in? Will I have fun? Was this a stupid idea? I arrived the next morning, anticipating all that could go wrong. I stayed in my car until I saw another person go up to the guide. It ended up just being three of us – one other participant and the guide. And let me tell you, they were the loveliest. All my fears slowly fell away.
I didn’t feel bad that I wasn’t as good as the others. I was comfortable asking questions. I made a new friend. I was having fun. Okay, well there was this one part where I ran into this guy I talked to on a dating app which was amazingly awkward. I mean it’s funny now, but at the time I wanted to crawl into a hole.
After the class ended, I drove home fulfilled. None of my anxieties came to fruition. I discovered that I still enjoy the outdoors even without my ex. I learned that I can handle myself just fine. That I can make friends on my own. That I still feel the freest when I’m outdoors. That my anxieties are always way worse than the actual event. I realized that I am more than capable.
Now, this trip wasn’t a cure-all. I continued to have anxiety and questioned my abilities and my love for the outdoors months after. Sometimes I still don’t feel “cool” enough to be in the outdoors. I feel as if I’m still fooling myself. But sometimes when I need a reminder, I look back at this trip. I remember how it made me feel and how much I accomplished.
I’m now rock climbing more and more. I have gone on longer and tougher hikes. I have made new friends in the outdoors. I have done more trips. I have continued to push myself. I have continued to grow. I continued to discover just how badass I might be.