Dan | Connecting

I hide stuff a lot. I suppose we all do, really.

As one example, I remember 16 year-old me travelling to another city to meet a girl. I only did it a couple of times, but each time I lied to my parents and said I was just in town – I didn’t want them to know. I’ve never wanted them to know about anything like that.

One day they found out. Like a typical teen, I’d left the train tickets somewhere in my room and forgotten (though to be fair, I’ve not really changed much since then). They thought it was cute, a bit funny, and that was it. Not that I feared their response or expected to get in trouble – I just didn’t want them to know. I’ve put off writing this partially for the same reasons – if I put this out publically, people will know. Will it change anything for the worse? I’m confident it won’t, but people will know, and that’s something I’ve always struggled with.

What will they know? Nothing too substantial, surely – but it’s an exposure of sorts, an admittance of vulnerability. I don’t like doing that.

I also repress my natural instincts a lot – there’s probably a link there, British stereotypes notwithstanding.

I recall many situations that I’ve made retrospectively mortifying with awkward stiffness – sad ones, fun ones, tense ones. My mind interjects each time, burying emotions with cold, stultifying reason. I think too much, then act too little.

Sad, angry? I look away, say nothing; I fail to comfort, I fail to express myself.

Fun, even risqué? I think about whether I’m looking stupid, whether I’m acting inappropriately. I fail to do what I really want, I fail to enjoy the moment.

It’s funny, really. The human mind enables so much (like being able to write this reflective article!), but in many respects it’s your own worst enemy. I’ve thought my way out of just as many good situations as I have bad. How many times has that awkward over-thinking made me come across as cold, uninterested or even just dull? I suppose I’ll never really know.

Hiding and repressing – as a result of both, I feel like I have trouble connecting with people – and if there’s one thing I really hate, it’s feeling distant from others. Feeling uninteresting, unwanted, undesirable – like I could disappear one day and no one would bat an eyelid.

There was a time when this was less of an issue for me, as I was content to be left to my own devices. Eventually, however, that contentment crumbled away to be replaced with a deep dissatisfaction. My actions – and inactions – had led to me feeling more and more disconnected from other people. Add various other dramatic life events to the mix, and I was in a rather sorry state by the time I put the proverbial foot down and started making an effort to meet others.

That’s why I like going climbing so much – it’s not so much the activity itself, but the people I’ve met while pursuing it. For the first time, in a long time, I feel like I’ve found a group that I’m really part of. We climb, we chat, we help each other out; we go camping, walking and drinking. We share our stories and thoughts, gossip, make wildly inappropriate jokes. Most of all, we have a huge amount of fun. I love feeling like I’m a part of all that. Hell, I just like being able to go round and say hi to everyone.

That’s why I like going climbing so much – it’s not so much the activity itself, but the people I’ve met while pursuing it.

That’s not to say that climbing has miraculously fixed all my issues. I still struggle with feelings of distance at times, I still hide things and I still repress my reactions. However, I also feel like I’m actually making progress – the longer I’m with the climbers, the less I find those negatives have a hold on me. And while they still have a hold on me, I’ve also begun to view them the same way I might view a particularly challenging route – something for me to work on.

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