“You need to slow down,” my boss says every Monday morning, like clockwork.
“What was it this time?” she asks. I answer and she grimaces. The more “extreme” the activity or farther away the weekend destination, the more she shudders as she thinks about the miles my Honda Element accumulates.
“You’re going to get sick.”
I shrug and get back to work.
She’s not wrong. This winter was rife with colds and tired eyes as I bounced from backcountry hut trips to climbing and camping trips, adventure-filled weekends sandwiched in between long nights at the office and bicoastal work trips. It got to the point where my roommates asked if I still lived at our house.
Long weeks at work often end with me wishing for nothing more than couch time. If I’m not tempted by that, there’s life’s demands and its laundry list of reasons screaming at me to stay in. And then, of course, there’s the presence of my ever-thinning wallet.
But my biggest barrier to getting out there is a fear of the unknown.
I cringe at the idea of embarrassing myself while learning new sports and activities, and living in an adventure-hub like Boulder, Colorado only compounds the stress. It’s a place where going to the gym means doing squats next to Olympic medalists, and going to the local café means ordering a latte from a barista who has summited every one of Colorado’s 14ers.
In the winter.
Despite this, I’ve learned to say “yes.” Yes to new experiences, new places, new people. Yes to falling and trying again.
I swore I would never climb due to a fear of heights, and I’ve frozen on my fair share of boulder problems this year. I’ve endured sleepless, frigid nights camping, and panic attacks on steep, sun-crusted backcountry lines.
But I’ve also enjoyed laughter while spilling down dunes, sung silly campfire songs with some of my closest friends, and topped my first high-ball boulder problem. I’ve cast aside fears while making new friends and acquiring new skills.
And I’ve found that many women feel just as nervous and inexperienced as me, who won’t judge me for trying, who will commend me just for saying that simple, three letter word: yes.
It’s this propensity to say yes that effected no surprise in my boss when she asked me, like clockwork, on Monday: “What was it this time?”
This time “it” was a chance to camp atop the drip-castle-esque boulders of Wyoming on a frigid night. This time it was a full moon, company, and bellyful of mac ‘n’ cheese, things that made the icy excursion bearable, even pleasurable.
The next time she asked, “it” was introducing my friends, who were visiting from Boston, to the beauty of Colorado’s sand dunes — as well as its biting and harsh winds. “It” was the hot springs nearby that helped wash away the sand behind each ear and between every toe.
Saying yes has taught me that, come Monday morning, I won’t regret setting up camp at midnight on Friday, that last minute trip to Moab, one more ski lap in Rocky Mountain National Park at dusk, or attending a climbing clinic alone. When I’m cleaning sand out of my hair days later, I won’t regret that our drinking water froze overnight in Wyoming.
It’s not the saying yes that I have ever regretted: it’s only been when I have said “no.”
What reason do I have to take my boss’ advice to slow down? Saying yes has filled me with more memories than a “no” has ever gotten me. So until experience teaches me differently, I’ll be by the coffee pot at work, bags under my eyes and a smile on my face.
. . .
About the author:
An Asheville, North Carolina native, Kersten Vasey relocated to Boulder, Colorado from Boston, Massachusetts. Weekdays find her working with advertising clients, but in off-hours she lives for skiing, “gluten-full” eating, running, cooking, concerts, and photography.
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