I am often asked why I choose to live the life I do. Why do you spend thirty days in the mountains, away from showers, forks, beds, all the comforts of “civilization?” Then even more, when you get out of the hills, you go live in a tent or out of your truck. WTF?
I am often at a loss for words when someone asks me this question. My stock answer is “I don’t really fit in anywhere else.” Sometimes the glib “because I can fart with impunity” is the response. Others might get the lighthearted comment “well I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up” (by the way, I am almost 33) or “can’t beat the view from the office.” The first response not withstanding, most of the ways I fulfill the questioners curiosity is through humor.
This is nothing new. I have been using humor to keep people at arm’s length all of my life, therefore it is inherently part of the answer. The transient nature of my students and colleagues makes developing deeper, more meaningful relationships harder and less practical. We all move on to the Next Big Thing or to other courses or other work or other lives. So in those thirty-odd days that I get to know my students, and often times co-workers, for the first time, I am able to routinely use humor to keep folks at a safe distance. Thirty days often is not enough time to delve into the deep bowels of Jared’s heart and mind.
In many ways it is true that I don’t fit in anywhere else. But that is because I haven’t ever really tried. I have been a hiker, backpacker, and camper since elementary school. College brought mountaineering and climbing. In high school I was always on the outside edge of the athletes and “in crowd.” No one was surprised when I became an outdoor education major…
But why does anyone do what they do? Some do it for the money, some for the glory, some because they like it and believe in it, others cause they don’t know what else to do. I claim most of these categories. Yep, I need the money. Yep, I believe that education is more than just classrooms, numbers, and writing. Education is holistic. Physical challenges, combined with learning new skills, combined with building relationships, combined with having to take care of yourself and others in an often uncertain and dynamic environment builds character and a skill set that can serve a student in good steed on any road that they may travel. Education is more than numbers, books, and science. Education is experience and reflection. It is also true, I don’t know what else to do (but that is another post.)
All of the above is true. I love being outside. I love climbing. I love teaching experientially. I enjoy the lifestyle. I do it for many reasons the least of which is not
“Some guys they just give up living and start dying little by little, piece by piece, some guys come home from work and wash up, and go racin’ in the street” –Bruce Springsteen Racing in the Streets
that it helps keep me young.