What is left?

A while back I had one of my siblings ask “Isn’t there anything left of you from when we were growing up?”. I had been talking to them about how much I have changed since coming out. I had made a big point about how I have changed a lot more than just my gender expression.

I think this was difficult for them. I think they were searching for parts of me that they could relate to. At the time I was rather emphatic about being so different, but I was wrong, somewhat.

I have changed so much in so many ways. In some cases, I have done a very strong 180 on a number of topics. But there are definitely things from my childhood and young adult years that have not only survived but have actually blossomed.

Let’s start with one of my passions, climbing. As a young adult, I had given it a try. But I didn’t have any friends that climbed, so I was doing this on my own. There weren’t any climbing gyms so I was out in fairly deserted areas up on a rock.

One day I almost killed myself. I won’t go into the details of that but that was enough for me to realize that it was crazy doing such things on my own, not really knowing what I was doing. So after that event, I hung it up, for a long time.

Then a couple years ago I found out about a queer climbing group, “Salt Lake Area Queer Climbers”. So I decided to go check it out. It took one day, actually only a couple of hours for me to realize, this was me.

In this respect, to me, there are three kinds of people. Those that don’t climb. For whatever reason, it doesn’t work for them. That is fine, it isn’t for everyone. Those that climb but not with their soul. They enjoy it as a sport or social event. But they can easily replace it with something else. That is fine, they are still part of the community and adding to the experience for all. Then there are those for whom climbing is part of their soul. It is more than moving the body, it is engaging their essence.

I discovered where I was on this last fall. I had gone on a 10-day vacation. Before the vacation, I had thought about how I would do some of my other activities but I hadn’t planned on climbing while I was gone. After I got back and was able to climb I got down from my first climb, it felt so good. But beyond that, it was like I had been holding my breath and could finally breathe again. In that moment I realized how important climbing had become to me. It was more than something I did, it was part of me. Next time I go on vacation my climbing gear is coming with me.

Another rebirth from my young adult years is running. I had given up on running a number of years ago. Being in my fifties (at that time) I felt it was too dangerous. Running is great cardio but it is very much a high-impact sport. So I had purchased a rowing machine for my cardio workout which is very low impact. The rowing machine worked great until I didn’t have it anymore.

Last November I moved out to Salt Lake City. This change has been great in so many ways. But one thing I didn’t consider in this move is that rowing machines are not that common. When I was shopping for an apartment I only considered ones with a gym. But the gym in the apartment I decided on doesn’t have a rowing machine. At the time I thought, ‘That is fine, my climbing gym has a rowing machine’.

Then one day it occurred to me, I go out at least once every week and dance for hours. And believe me, my dancing is not low-impact. I am a very active dancer and move all over the dance floor. So I thought if I can dance for hours why can’t I use the treadmill for a few minutes?

So I decided to give it a try, I fell in love. I can’t really explain it but there is something about running that is so nourishing to me. Not just healthy for my body but so good for my mind and soul.

What started out as maybe a few minutes has in a couple of months grown to runs of an hour and a half. I am currently running 2-3 times a week for 3 miles or more. I have gone as far as 12Ks so far. I am hoping to get to a half-marathon (21k) before the snow starts. I feel a full marathon may be in my future.

Another such activity is hiking. Growing up my parents commonly owned a cabin at Lake Tahoe, so I kind of grew up in the mountains. In my teen years when we were up there, I would wander around the area behind our cabin for hours. I so loved the mountains and being out in nature.

While that never totally left me as climbing did, it did become a rare event in my life. As my family grew spending hours out in the woods was just not practical. But now all of my kids are adults so that isn’t a limitation. This past summer I was getting out once or twice every month. I would have gotten out more but just didn’t have the time.

Some of my outings in the woods have been more like a casual walk for an hour or so. Others have been more adventurous, hiking for hours deep in the mountains. My longest hike to date was 12 hours, 10 miles, and over two thousand feet of elevation gain. I was rather exhausted after that one, but it was great.

There is a harmony there, being out in the wilderness. It reminds me of how complex and how simple life really is. It reminds me of how precious nature is. It reminds me of how amazing life is. It reminds me of how beautiful all life is. It reminds me of where I fit in the universe. In all of this and more my soul is nourished as I walk.

One activity I have enjoyed since I was a young child is as strong as ever, shopping malls. I think somewhere in my early teen years I started enjoying shopping malls. I know I loved wandering through them and I still do. What I am looking at has changed somewhat. But I can still spend hours in a mall. I especially love it when I have someone with me. Then we can daydream about what we would buy if… And there is the added enjoyment of finding that perfect item together.

I still love architecture. As a young adult, I wanted to be an architect. That never worked out, but my love has endured. I have been known to stop just to look at a particular building that caught my eye. I once was driving on a country road and crossed an overpass. I don’t recall why but I was curious about how it was supported. So I parked off the side of the road and hiked back to look under it. Turned out it was an upside-down suspension bridge.

I recently went to San Francisco, which is so full of picture worthy things. While I did take pictures of the usual things many of my pictures are of buildings and other structures I found interesting.

I am still very much an engineer. For those that don’t know by profession, I am a software engineer. But I am not an engineer because that is my profession, that is my profession because I am a natural engineer. It is the way my brain works. I am very analytical and love to use logic to solve complex problems.

Along with that is my love of tinkering and taking things apart. That has not changed either. I have a large collection of tools specifically designed to disassemble electrons that are not designed to be ‘user servericable’. I have taken cell phones and other things apart with varying amounts of success.

This has been with me since I was a young child. I vividly remember my uncle giving me a “broken radio”. I don’t recall why he gave it to me, maybe just to keep me quiet. I do recall he was rather emphatic about it being broken. But a bit later I happily showed him my “working” radio, and reminded him that it is mine now.

I still hate waste, which is kind of odd. My parents were pretty well off and never lacked for anything. Yet my whole life wasting stuff has bothered me. When I was younger I would go to extremes to avoid wasting things. But then I realized my time and other resources were of value too. So now I consider the overall cost of the waste and the cost of not wasting.

I am sure some might say those are not who you are, those are things you did. For sure several of the items I have listed are activities. And I do agree that in many cases activities are simply that, something we do for a bit of time. But most of the activities I have listed are far more than something to pass the time, they are part of me.

Especially some of my activities like running and climbing are so very much a part of me. Like my dancing they allow my soul and body to come into a harmony that makes me feel so alive. It is so much more than merely a motion or action, it is a very deep connection to reality and beyond. But even with the other things, my love of architecture or shopping, are not the things you do defining of who you are?

I am sure there are things I have missed. Things I do now, or that are from when I was younger. So to answer my sibling, ‘Yes there are things that are left.’. I am not totally new. But even in the things that are left, in many cases, my expression of them, or my experience of them is vastly different.

Before running was strictly for exercise, now it brings my soul to life. Before climbing was just an activitey to play with, now it is the most multidemintional thing I do, it is amazing. So I am a mix of old and new and new ways of experiencing the old.