We all have hobbies and passions, pastimes and projects. They are our escape. Sometimes, it can turn out that those things actually transform into something more, taking over. Taking up more and more time, they can evolve to engulf your life fully. What happens when you need a break from your break? What once was your escape, is now the thing that you are trying to escape. Where do you turn?
It’s been a long time coming for me. I’ve been climbing for 21 years and for the last seven or so everything I have done has revolved around climbing. I lived, ate and slept it … and don’t get me wrong, I loved it for a long time. Over the last year or so, the intensity of my climbing peaked and reached a point where it actually became a stressor rather than a relaxer. I was dreaming of holidays where I left my climbing kit at home and that was a strange feeling. It was getting to a point where my obsession with climbing was actually drowning my motivation for it and I even began to feel guilty for craving ‘down time’. I was tired.
If you read my first article for the Arch Climbing magazine, you’ll probably be thinking I am contradicting myself … talking of climbing as a perfect relationship, ‘in love’ almost. On the other hand, I am actually confirming my point. Every good relationship has its ups and downs, we all need ‘breathing space’ sometimes. The strongest relationships work out, the break does us good and we come back stronger. Others realise that the space was what they needed all along, and never go back.
Fortunately or unfortunately, taking a break from climbing wasn’t a decision I made myself, or at least not consciously. My break came with injury. After pushing myself too hard, my shoulder gave way and I simply had to stop, or risk losing climbing forever. There was one positive to come from my time away from climbing however, I found a hobby that would give me respite from the intensity of my life as a climber. It’s something that I enjoy equally as much, and whilst it’s not ‘active’ as such, it’s creative and it takes my mind to a faraway place, consuming my consciousness for hours. My escape is jewellery. I make sterling silver jewellery.
Thinking about it now it makes sense. I have always felt creative, but not in the conventional senses of drawing or painting, I leave that to my other half, Liam, because I am beyond rubbish. At college, I would have loved to have done a fashion course but I chose to base all my decisions around climbing and so took Photography, English Language and Media Studies with the aim of getting some work with a magazine or to make my own climbing films. I chose those subjects because I felt like they were ‘the right thing to do’. Most of my choices in life have been like that, pretty much up until the last couple of years. This is the first time that I have consciously chosen to take on something that has zero connection to climbing and quite frankly, it feels great. Moving to the Lake District two years ago gave me a new perspective on my life and since leaving the climbing bubble that is Sheffield, I realised that I had been totally sucked in … the injury had given me no choice but to take a step back and think about my direction.
I have always been drawn to natural materials, especially wood. I once spent a week whittling down a stick into a wooden spoon, but stopped just before completion because I stabbed myself in the hand and had to take three days off climbing. Not cool. I could, and often do, spend hours in a woodcraft shop; spoons, bowls, chopping boards, decorations, you name it, I love it. So much so that I actually have a huge box, overflowing with driftwood, taking over our spare bedroom at the moment until I decide what to do with it (sorry Liam). I also have a rather large selection of seashells in boxes and tubs, not to mention scattered along shelves and my workbench. My workbench, by the way, is also by my wardrobe … what more could a girl want?
Anyway, back to the point, after a fairly substantial break, I am now on the other side. More level headed and with a balanced time schedule, I am lucky enough to be able to split up my days and weeks with climbing, work and making jewellery. There is enough of each to keep me motivated, but not too much that I am overwhelmed, safe in the knowledge that I have a true ‘escape’ when I need it. My climbing is back on track and I am ready to take things to the ‘next level’, if you’ll pardon the cliché.
I took the decision this season to find a coach and I am super privileged to be able to work with Suz Dudink, one of the owners of Climb Newcastle and also a guest setter at the Arch Climbing Walls too. Our focus is the world cup season, which begins in a few weeks. This year will be a trial for me, an opportunity to get my head back into gear for the intense competition season and also to see how my body reacts to the training programme that Suz sets for me. Missing last season due to my shoulder injury has definitely put me firmly back in to rookie mode and whilst some may see this as a curse, I really feel like it’s a blessing as there is a lot less pressure to perform. I can try my absolute hardest and see where it gets me, everything is a bonus.
My main aim for the coming Boulder World Cup season is to be happy with each individual performance and focus on that, not on where others place around me. I am competing against myself. Having Suz on hand to tell me where I have gone wrong, or how to think or move differently is something totally new and even after one session I have seen massive improvements. The results and progress so far have been stunning.
And so, as I approach the final run up to the 2015 world cup season, I’ll be busy with work – making sure there’s money in the bank, I’ll be sweating it out in the gym and at the wall – getting in shape for the competitions and I’ll be spending a few hours ‘escaping’ – putting the finishing touches on a few new jewellery pieces I have designed. Wish me luck.
Article originally published on the Arch Climbing website.