Your gentle outdoor activities are also rad
Welcome to Tough Love. We answer your questions about dating, breakups and everything in between. Our advisor is Blair Braverman, dog sled racer and author of Welcome to the fucking ice cube. Do you have a personal question? Write to us at [email protected]
I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, the hectic work or something else, but I lost all motivation to do the sports I once loved. A year ago I was training for ultramarathons five days a week and meeting friends to go rock climbing on my days off. My weekends were filled with camping trips and long social hikes.
Then the pandemic hit, the race I was training for was called off, the climbing gym closed, and of course we all stopped hanging out in large groups. I got much more into gardening, baking, and home improvement. And, even though things are starting to open up again, I find it hard to embrace the sports I once loved. I find that I would much rather spend a sunny Saturday in my backyard or a gentle dog walk with my partner than trying to send a project to the rock.
I know, I know: I should probably just embrace this new me. But I work in the outdoor industry, so there is still a tiny part of me that feels obligated to come back to these sports. Gardening is a lot less “radical” than running 50 miles or climbing sandstone, after all. What should I do?
First of all: this is all rad. Personalize your home, grow your own food, take a walk with your dog (s) and loved ones? These things are objectively cool. I’m glad for you that you’ve found some great interests at this point in your life: things that help you feel grounded, and that are both relaxing and invigorating, especially when so much has changed around you.
To me, it seems like you’re adding to yourself, not diminishing yourself. It’s not that you are no longer a climber or a runner. is that you are too a baker, a gardener and a renovator. We all go through phases, and it is normal for the hobbies that appeal to you to evolve over time; this is how things stay fresh. You don’t waste your skills and experience focusing on other interests for a while. You just maintain a kind of natural balance.
In fact, if you stick with the hobbies that appeal to you, you might find that in another year you will be completely obsessed with rock climbing or running again; you might even want to take them to a higher level. But if you force yourself to stick to something that you are not feeling right now, especially when the purpose of this activity is to make you happy-you are effectively excluding your options. It’s much harder to revert to old interests with a sense of pleasure if you’ve already exhausted yourself with them.
This doesn’t mean that the pressure you are feeling isn’t real. As a culture, we tend to glorify activities considered traditionally masculine (endurance sports, anything that involves jumping off a cliff) over activities considered feminine (gardening, housekeeping). The model extends far beyond the outdoor industry, of course, but you experience it in a particular microcosm. And I understand: daring adventures make great stories. But connecting with nature is more than a free solo – and running an ultra is no more fun than taking a relaxed walk in the woods.
This doesn’t mean that adventure sports are bad (or even overkill!) Or that gardening is good. The point is, they’re both good. The point is, the hierarchy of radness – any sort of hierarchy – is subjective and artificial. (There is a fundamental insecurity in maintaining a hierarchy, of course, which suggests that anything at the top of the pyramid might not stay there if the ladders were leveled. Personally, I think adventure sports are. inherently cool, and people will love them – like I do, even if they aren’t held up as cooler than other things.)
Working in industry means that you are more sensitive to these pressures; you are included in it every day, and there may be professional implications if, for example, socialization outside the office occurs at the climbing gym. But it also means that you are helping to define the industry – and if you feel anything, that means countless others are too. Many people have felt excluded from culture and outdoor spaces because the way they want to spend time in nature or the way they to do spending time in nature, is not the most visible or celebrated way. And even small changes within an industry can help transform a space from exclusive to welcoming.
Professionally, it seems to me that you are an incredible asset. You have experience in a range of outdoor activities and can talk about a wide range of ways people experience the outdoors. The industry is stronger to have your point of view and your skills. Frankly, what you do in your spare time is none of your boss’s business. And if your friends don’t immediately recognize the freshness of your new hobbies, I bet few things will open their minds as quickly as a few slices of fresh bread.