According to my reckoning it’s been about two weeks since I sat down with intent to write anything on this blog. I can assure you that not a single day has passed that I have not felt some embarrassment or remorse at that statistic.
I intend to “unpack” the Yosemite adventure in several blogs but the underlying theme that has driven the narrative over the last few weeks has been austerity and hardship. Some of it came with obvious warnings and was a foregone conclusion. Other manifestations of it came completely unlooked for and could not have been predicted. Living among towering peaks and natural beauty is an amazing privilege but one that can exact a very high price that is never included in the magazine cover photos and brochure tag lines.
This is reality, this is the benchmark of true adventure–that it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun. Feeling the sting of loneliness or the rock digging into your back after a solid week of sleeping in the dirt are the markers of authenticity–that you are not eating life out of a can but taking it straight off of the tree.
A predominating thought during my time in Yosemite was: how can I convey the struggle without seeming like I am just bitching and whining? After all, I knew what I was getting myself into. I signed up for this. I begged for it and anticipated it. This inevitably led to the next question of what the hell is wrong with me that I voluntarily seek this type of lifestyle?
That second question is wholly unanswered. The former, however, is about honesty and not trying to color the truth. I didn’t set out on this project to make diabetes seem less challenging or to show that it’s more difficult to manage than people realize. I wanted to explore the concept of embracing challenge rather than fleeing it-and in doing so, there is simply a lot of groveling, hardship, loneliness, discomfort and even despair.
It’s been a solid month since I last saw Stefanie. I have talked to her maybe 4 times on the phone during this time. I know that some guys have hobbies and activities to get away from their wife or girlfriend. Not me. Every second of every day I feel that void in my life through which all of the other “voices in my head” echo and reverberate to a deafening pitch.
I keep telling myself to just keep sorting out the pieces of the puzzle and not get overwhelmed at the fact that they still need to be assembled before this whole project really begins to take shape and shine. At multiple points every day I feel like I am actively failing–not sending on El Cap, not getting the shots I want, not keeping the site updated or connecting with our supporters–it has been a struggle to complete the simplest acts of living on a day to day basis and I am constantly faced with the choice to either document it in the moment at the detriment of my well being or to make notes and try and piece it together later. Regardless which option I choose, it always seems wrong.
While the struggle has been very poignant during my time in Yosemite I am left with several encouraging details.
- I was able to shoot some really nice stuff even without being able to devote a majority of time to the camera work. By nice I don’t mean artistically composed etc, but more in terms of depicting the experience and the scale of the tasks at hand.
- I got to meet a lot of really amazing and kind people in the Valley and Tuolumne.
- I learned the ropes and some of the logistics required to make my next trip back there less of a hassle.
- The dragon wagon is a guaranteed conversation starter now. Before people would glance as they walk by. Now, with even MORE artwork, inscriptions and the like, it really draws people in.
- I connected with a solid partner for the next couple of months which will allow for more climbing and less down time.
- I walked up to the biggest monolith on the planet and gave it hell for a solid 5 pitches and learned what not to do so that I can come back stronger next time and send.
Most of all, while I had lots of “life” happening while I slept in the dirt and played on the rocks, Type 1 Diabetes didn’t stop me from doing a single thing that I had planned to try. Weather? Lack of experience? Too much gear or too little in some cases? Sure. But not diabetes. It’s almost like being normal–except I have a car with a hole in the top and sharpie quotes and drawings adorning it.
I am managing to put T1D in its place–which is no special place at all, just in with all of the other tasks of living; it has become part of MY life and by assimilating it into MY world I am empowered.