Ponderings

Crocodile Pants (Why Interaction is a Good Thing)

COVID has really made me wary of interacting with others. I’m
already quite cynical, and the pandemic has only made me more so. Moreover, I’ve always been pretty OK with doing things alone. And so, I’ve been just going skiing and climbing by my lonesome — a lot.

A few weeks ago, I was at the climbing gym, you guessed it, alone. I was doing the auto-belays for the umpteenth time, air pods in, forehead creased and eyes narrowed, daring anyone to talk to me. An employee approached me. I assumed he was reproaching me for wearing both air pods while climbing, but he was trying to help me out. “You know, there are a couple of others who are also doing the auto-belays, but they’re like you — strong and sick of the repetition. You could get on top-rope together — I could introduce you?”

“Ah, I don’t know. I’m pretty tired today. I’m probably heading out
soon,” I lied. The truth was, I didn’t want to get set up with some
annoying climber dude, who either was stronger than I am and wanted to prove it, or worse, one who was weaker and wanted to prove me wrong. Plus, could I trust a stranger to belay me? I know you need to get certified, but still. People do sketchy stuff at the gym. And we’re in a pandemic, for crying out loud! I should just stay away.

I was making this list of reasons in my head as I got back on the wall. And as I climbed this 5.10+ I had done multiple times before, I thought to myself, “Why am I being so self-defeating?”

Like so many people, I feel lonely as a result of the pandemic. Here was a
perfect opportunity to interact with someone, in a relatively safe environment, doing an activity I enjoyed. The worst that could happen was that the other person was irritating and I’d lose an hour of my life in their company. Why the hell not?

I approached the employee and he introduced me to Suzy — a 60-year-old
badass climber of just three years, wearing pants she had made herself out of bright blue fabric covered in crocodiles. And we climbed together for 30
minutes. It was lovely, refreshing. I couldn’t believe how foolish I had
initially been.

It’s interactions like this that remind me that we humans are wired for connection. We crave interaction because it improves our lives. It’s hard to remember this truth when for the past year, we’ve been told to stay away from others. 

Since meeting Suzy, I’ve chatted with her multiple times at the gym. I also have made friends with a few other powerful ladies — simply because they watched me climb, complimented me, and said, “We’re trying to make friends.” 

“You’re trying to make friends?” I exclaimed. “I’m trying to make friends!” 

I now have four new contacts in my phone, all women who like to climb and support one another. And I feel like my life has significantly improved. Now, when I plan to go climbing or skiing, I first think: is there someone who can join me? There’s a lot of value in being independent and able to go it alone when the going gets tough; but the quality of life is immeasurably better in company. 

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February 18, 2021