My life up to this point has taken a windy road which, from what I hear from various mentors and people later in their careers, is quite normal. I sometimes feel like I’ve pigeonholed myself professionally, so it’s nice to be reminded of things that exist beyond the sphere of music and education. In fact, it’s where I gather a lot of my inspiration, and learn lessons that can be applied elsewhere (e.g. my Master’s Degree thesis). The thing I love about existing beyond what my professional resume may showcase is that it offers so many amazing opportunities, and neat connections that I never, in a million years would have dreamed of having.
One of my newer loves that has developed within the past three years is my love for rock climbing. I actually started towards the end of my public school career. It was done on a whim, and has become a major facet of what I do. It not only offers a great mental and physical challenge, but also has helped me become stronger and more confident.
When I first started rock climbing, I was coming off of major injuries (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) that had been acquired through years of repetitive actions (tuning instruments, practicing nonstop, playing piano for the students, etc.). The injuries were so severe, that when someone lightly touched my thumb, I could barely lift it. I was also dropping things, as I wasn’t able to fully grip onto anything. It was a pretty devastating time, given that my ability to support myself relies heavily on the use of my hands. In an effort to stave off the need for surgery, I opted to go through a year of intensive physical therapy, going from hand strengthening, to full body physical therapy, and ending with strength and conditioning therapy. It worked, but the year had taken its toll on me. I felt weak, and all I could think of was how weak my wrists were, and “would I ever even get to play cello as well as I could again?” Flash forward to about 6 months later, when I came across a chance to start rock climbing at the local gym. It seemed like a neat deal, so I went ahead and signed up for it.
Once I started, I couldn’t stop. The power I felt coming back into my hands, and the mad desire to “get over” my fear of heights was intoxicating. I started to spend a majority of my time at the gym to conquer my fears, and gain strength. And then I discovered all the other forms of climbing and the amazing opportunities they presented. In an effort to do more climbing wise with friends, I’d ask around for information, take classes, glean information from my coworkers, scour the web for resources, practice a million times indoors, and then hope against all hope that we’d be ready when we tackled a new adventure outside. In fact, the aspect of adventure alone became a huge draw for me, and became a driving force in my quest to “get over” my fear of falling and heights. After reading books such as “The Rock Warrior’s Way”, and forcing myself through Whipper Therapy (taking huge falls), there was still a present fear, but once I started to get outside, everything changed. I wanted to be able to climb other climbs--harder climbs--explore more intense terrain, and leap into Traditional Climbing; so, slowly I learned how to control my mind, maintain focus, and keep moving.
There are definitely a lot of lessons to be learned from rock climbing (much like in music). Like Matthew Child’s TEDTalk, I have learned a lot, but more importantly for me, I have pushed myself more than I ever thought was possible. I am getting better at assessing risk, and doing things that used to terrify me like: going freelance, collaborating on a neat project and putting a video of myself out into the internet, putting a recording of myself online, pursuing a career outside of teaching, climbing outdoors, taking huge falls, etc. Basically, getting outside of my comfort zone, and ignoring all the millions of thoughts like “Oh man, what if people think this is stupid?” or some variety of that that plague me often, because in the grand scheme of things, and in the end...who cares if someone liked my work and someone else didn’t? As long as my work was able to impact someone, help someone in some way, teach someone, or inspire someone, that’s good enough for me. So yeah, I’m a musician, I’m an educator, but I’m also a rock climber, and rock climbing has really been what has rebooted my return to being a musician.