This photograph of me at about age three was taken in a campground, and that says something about my parents. My parents believed that getting my brother and me outside and instilling within us a curiosity about the natural world was pivotal to our development, so they began that process very early. That curiosity has been helpful for me throughout my life.
That said, in my adolescence I felt very much like a social misfit. The truth is, I‘m a very uncomfortable person, a very insecure person. I’ve always felt like a shape-shifter, like I couldn’t fit in anywhere. So I found identity in the mountains because the mountains didn’t require me to be anything else; I could just be myself. And in the mountains I also discovered very early on that rules, for the most part, are arbitrary. That the things that might look impossible, if taken in small steps, usually aren’t. That if we break things down, we can usually accomplish almost anything.
I went to high school two years early, which worked to both my benefit and my detriment. When you’re 12 years old and hanging out with 18-year-olds, that’s a pretty seductive realm that can draw you off course. By the time I was 13, I had basically stopped going to class and I was doing drugs. My parents were mortified and they saw my life derailing, so they put me in a behavioral treatment center, somewhere that they could feel I was safe.
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