Essay: On Belay or On Fleek

The history of climbing in America has been a circuitous one. Popularized decades ago, by rebels and those on the fringes of society, it has slowly pushed its way into broader American culture.

When recreational climbers combine the look of a classic misfit and current trends, it makes you wonder; are you a climbing misfit who has finally found a place to be yourself, or are you chasing a climbing facade because it looks cool?

In this essay, Melissa Gibson examines this topic and what our reaction to the “trendy rebel” can reveal about ourselves …


The trendy rebel.

She goes through her day mostly unconscious of her breath but she wears her yoga pants part-time. She doesn’t live near a wall and out of a car, but she owns climbing shoes. She doesn’t freestyle but she will sing along to Notorious B.I.G. unabashedly in the car.

Some of us talk about her … how she’s putting her pose pad too close to ours, crowding up the crag, and creating one endless pop song. Some of us ignore her hard. She personifies the fears we can’t be with long enough to name.

Some of us attempt to master the balance of doing both: photographing and posting how much better we can do that pose, pointing out that we experience the “true grade” because we lead instead of top roped, and that we supported that artist before they were available at Starbucks.

She is not a pronoun for a person, so how we think and feel about her says things about ourselves:

  1.  How we deal with what is popular not including our full story
  2.  What our relationship is with seeking approval and acceptance from others
  3.  How we see our uniqueness among the hundreds of thousands of people who live like us

We may have an easier or harder time with our relationship to what is popular based on our culture, appearance, language, etc. Most of us will be inclined to push back some of what is being fed into our lives.

Shake up systems and societies.

Resist is not a sign you post. Resistance is applying yourself in opposition to the inertia of the status quo, not trying to ride the sexy edges of “exotic” uniqueness. This is not best done by intention or design, but by being present and moving to your heart’s song.

And if you do it “right”?

If you do it right …

You “purge yourself before you find fault in others.” Present, you will “be inspired not proud.” You are B.K.S. Iyengar receiving Gold Medals for alternative medicines while prescriptions for painkillers increase by 2 million a year.

If you do it right …

The “most relevant factor in your ability to perform well will come from your love.” You will find a “connection to a nonconformist culture” in your own way, only to be measured, compared, and underestimated by conventional culture. You’re Lynn Hill pulling on fingertips for a first free ascent that will later be minimized because you were small enough to put those tips in the crack.

If you do it right …

“God is smilin’ on you but he’s frownin’ too because only God knows what you’ll go through.” Most people will not understand what you passionately spit but they will mix up your rhyme. You’re Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five changing the pace and topic of hip-hop but being reduced to a chorus of “it’s like a jungle sometimes.”

If you do it right …

You will change everything around you but not the world.

You will live a deeply joyful life but not an easy one.

You will feel whole and fulfilled but you will often stand alone.

What does it boil down to?

Be your authentic self. Not just the parts of you that will be immediately accepted by others. Be the unique expression of your highest self-from the parts that seem typically human and cliché to the parts that dare to shake it all up.

May you breathe, rise, and rhythmically spit your truth.

***

FLEEK
adjective

INFORMAL•US
  1. extremely good, attractive, or stylish.
    “my hair is on fleek right now”

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Essay: On Belay or On Fleek

The history of climbing in America has been a circuitous one. Popularized...
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