Projects

nalleburdenofdreams

nalleburdenofdreams

(Nalle Hukkataival on what may be the world’s hardest bouldering route: Burden of Dreams, Lappnor, Finland. Photo: Nico Backstrom)I'm thinking about how I'm in the same place on two different levels in my life, at the moment.I'm less than three months out from a marathon that kicked my butt two years ago. I am ambivalent. I know I'll have to work like crazy from now til then -- thru the truly crappy weather of January and February -- to make a decent show of it. And by 'make a decent show' I mean not cramping up just ten miles in and having to hobble and cuss to finish in seven and a half hours.I'm also trying to figure out how to write what I think could be a really good article, about a young guy in Mississippi who runs a kayak-tour business, and who happens to be African-American. So many parts of my life come into play for this piece, from growing up in the Mississippi Delta, to the kayaking I've done, to having read for decades the kind of article that I want to write. I am ambivalent. Which way to go? How to structure it? How to get the best of the idea across?Rock climbers in the subdiscipline called bouldering -- where shorter, hard climbs without ropes are the thing -- call the routes 'problems.' A problem that a climber is currently being worked on is a 'project.' Bouldering sometimes means working on a project that's no more than a few feet long -- the moves are so hard, the holds so small, gravity so ferocious and unrelenting, that that's all the climber can do. Or wants to do.The world's hardest bouldering problem, as of now, is about twelve feet long. Finnish climber Nalle Hukkataival worked on the problem, called Burden of Dreams, for three years.Climbers working on bouldering projects will spend weeks on five feet of rock. They'll work on one move -- step here, finger pocket here -- for hours. Days.I need more of that attitude. I need to forget the big picture, the 'why am I doing this, what is it going to look like,' and to be willing to focus on the tiny steps, the microscopic features, for as long as it takes. After all, these are things that I've chosen to apply myself to, to put in the work on. What makes anything that any of us does, worthwhile? It's internal, the feeling of having done good work. Whether that's laying a driveway, recording a song, or teaching a child. Or writing an article, or running a marathon.So here's to a 2019 that's about projects. May your projects -- and your problems -- bring you fulfillment.

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