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Growing Up Wild…and Finding My Way Back

Mountain

Ever since I can remember I have wanted to climb, hike, explore and be completely adventurous…even to my own detriment. In my childhood years, I fell down mountains and out of trees. I jumped off rooftops for who knows what reason, and I had a concussion at age 12 from falling on ice. What can I say?…
The base of the Sandia mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico was a great place to grow up wild. When I was young, this was no problem at all. People are generally fine with the idea of kids and exploration. I was totally free to go out and roam the mountains after school with friends or catch crayfish in the creeks. I went rock climbing and skiing and everyone around me thought that was great! They encouraged it. In my late teens, people started noticing that this adventurous spirit didn’t go away…and this apparently made people uncomfortable and worried for me.

Being an intrepid woman is not the only thing that seems to surprise people. I love video games and heavy metal, I work in ponds and dirt and handle dead animals most days (they are scientific specimens), and I’m a bit of an academic. All these things come as a surprise most of the time when people meet me, especially people my own age. I don’t quite understand it. Am I breaking some social rule here? I thought U.S. culture was past this for the most part. I’m learning more and more that that is not the case. People still have this idea about how I should act and what my interests should be. They fear for me when I talk about anything adventurous…because I might “get hurt.”

Let me state that, for the record, I know the risks perfectly well. Yes, I am a woman but I do possess some foresight. I can plan, I can use caution, I can focus and think. I can hike and climb as well as the next guy with equal experience, the only difference is that I might pack a tampon. Uncomfortable yet? Good. That is where we need to be. It should make people uncomfortable to assume untruths…(Did I mention that I am also opinionated?) All of this constitutes a culture where women genuinely think they need gender-specific items or extra help or whatever to even begin to think about going out and doing something fun and daring… You don’t. All you need to do is go.

Getting out and trekking around, hiking and climbing. It all takes me back to my childhood. To that place where I could be me. I get to ignore the derision of society, relax, refocus and take some risks again. I get to dive back into the unknown where there are challenges to meet and experiences to learn from. I think that when we shut out all the clatter going on around us and give ourselves time to test our own boundaries, we learn what we are truly capable of, regardless of what social construct demands.

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