Semi-Rad is a very cool blog that I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know about until earlier this year. If you haven’t visited, I highly recommend it – Brendan Leonard is a great writer and always has an interesting story to tell. Brendan also bills himself as an everyman-outdoorsman who isn’t afraid to let people know that he’s not always the best at what he’s doing.
A recent post of his tackles something that I think keeps a lot of people from exploring the outdoors on their own – the fear of looking stupid. How many times have you had a conversation with a non-hiker about your most recent backpacking or peak-bagging trip, only to have them say something along the lines of “I wish I could do that – I just don’t know how”? Or “I’d love to go backpacking, but I don’t even know what gear I’d need.” How many times have you been afraid to try something new just because you don’t think you’ll be able to instantly master it?
In his post, Brendan talks about reaching an age most people consider “adult.” The good thing about that, he says, is that he knows he doesn’t really have to do something if he doesn’t want to. But the flipside is that sometimes you think you already KNOW you won’t be good at something even if you haven’t done it – and that can prevent you from trying new things. As he puts it:
The earlier you can admit you don’t know everything, the more time you have to learn new things and make a richer life. The later you admit you don’t know everything, the less time you have. And if you don’t admit it at all? There’s a song lyric that says, “The older I get, the less I know, and the more I dream.”
I’ll admit, I do this a lot. I’m a hiker, but I don’t do off-trail. I like snowshoeing, but skiing seems too fast. I’m OK kayaking in sounds, but get nervous about doing it in the ocean. I’m not afraid to bike down Fairfax Avenue in rush hour, but riding on a fire road makes me nervous. Where do we draw these self-imposed, arbitrary boundaries? And how many new experiences are we denied because of them?
Well, Brendan’s post is expertly timed for New Year’s Resolutions and I think we could all stand to gain a bit by not telling ourselves what we can and can’t do when presented with new opportunities and instead asking ourselves “why not?” I’m going to Portland for Christmas this year and I’ll be joining my boyfriend’s family on their traditional ski trip despite only personally spending a few hours on the bunny slopes a years ago. I’m prepared to fall down a lot and to be at a skill level far below the 6-year-olds who will undoubtedly be flying past me with ease and grace. And I’m going to try something new.
… but maybe I’ll still bring my snowshoes, just in case.
Have a great holiday everyone – and get some good resolutions down before the end of the year!
He has also been featured on Good Morning America, NPR, and the Associated Press, as well as in documentaries for Columbia Sportswear and the OTIS College of Art and Design.
Casey is currently writing a book on day hikes in Los Angeles for Mountaineers Books.
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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on December 19, 2012