Life isn’t always a beach

It’s a fine line, between honesty and whining. Or a grey area.

I wonder if our reluctance to whine is responsible for the relentless stream of life-envy I dip my toes into every time I engage with social media. Nobody likes a whiner, and everybody wants to be liked. To get likes.

So we only share the positive. Or insist on finding the positive in something before we share.

I do it all the time. A couple of weeks back I climbed my first multi-pitch route. It’s a step up for me, not something I expected to do soon. There’s an extra level of organisation, safety skill, and outright fear, involved in scaling an 80 metre high rock face over the course of three hours. It’s a bigger deal than climbing 20 or 30 metres and then descending to safety. The hardest part was actually the traverse at the start. It got me into that very exaggerated state of calm that descends when the other option is outright panic, but you know that panic will lead to disaster.

But I did it. And I was chuffed. So I posted a chirpy picture on Instagram.

As requested, more of my face. Specifically, stuffing my face with snickers on my first ever multi-pitch climb today. It was awesome, and terrifying, and not particularly elegant. But awesome. I’m kind of buzzed! Thanks for the photo and for not dropping me @willg_w #peanutpower #firstmultipitch #309road #coromandelclimbing #womenwhoclimb

A post shared by Kirstie and Arthur (@saltwithyourcoffee) on

Two days later we went to try some beach climbing. This time it was trad climbing, which I’d never tried before either. Trad climbing involves placing gear in the rock as you climb, to run your rope through and protect yourself in case of a fall. (This is as opposed to sport climbing, which I usually do, where there are bolts fixed to the rock for you to clip into every now and again.)

So another new challenge. I found it much harder, with a bulky rack of heavy bits of metal slung around my chest. My balance was off, my body didn’t feel good. And I didn’t trust the gear. I was afraid of falling, and afraid that if I fell it would be all the way to the ground.

So instead of summiting triumphantly, challenge risen to, I got three metres off the ground and lost my shit. I was afraid. And instead of getting all zen about it, I cried, and climbed back down.

I don’t know why. I don’t know what was different that day. The heat, the fact that I had the option to give up so easily, or the particular cocktail of hormones flooding my veins on that particular day of the month. But I was afraid, and I gave up. Some days are like that.

But those aren’t the days I usually post on Instagram about. I’m just as guilty as everyone else of picking the high days and holidays to share, and keeping the rest hidden. I considered posting about my failure, or whatever you want to call it. But it seemed a strange thing to do. Here is a thing which I did not accomplish. It just felt like whining. I couldn’t really find an upside to focus on, so I didn’t share it. It felt too weird just saying that something hadn’t gone well. Without offering a silver-lining.

But should that be weird?

I think if we were all a bit more willing to share our lows as well as our highs, we might have a social media space which felt a little more supportive. A little less competitive.

I know I don’t mind listening to other people’s gripes now and again. Relentless positivity can be exhausting. Sometimes life is just a bit shitty, and I think it’s best to acknowledge that.

Maybe whining is underrated.

4 thoughts on “Life isn’t always a beach

  1. Two things. One, have you watched the first episode of Black Mirror? It’s a crazy, society-gone-mad-with-social-media sort of commentary. Sad and disturbing, but worth a watch I think.

    Two, wait, what was I going to say? Oh! Right. Have you read The Antidote? It’s got a lot to say about the “cult of positivity” and about accepting uncertainty and a bunch of other thoughtful, interesting, well-researched things. I think of your blog every time I read it 🙂

    PS sorry if this comment is manic. I’ve been vomiting out 1600 words a day for Nano and my brain is a bit fried haha

    1. I have seen that episode of black mirror. The first one of season 3? I love (/am terrified by) how they pick just the right level of extreme for each issue. Far enough that it’s clearly frightening, close enough to reality that it’s even more frightening. I actually found that one of the least scary episodes though, because the people ‘winning’ all seemed like total arses. Real life is more scary – good and bad all hopelessly muddled.

      I haven’t read the antidote, but it sounds excellent. Adding it to my (hopelessly long) list!

      Good luck with the words. You can do it!!!

  2. Your honesty and ability to write about your failures, as well as your successes, is why I like reading your blog. It has a real-life quality that I wish I could communicate better in my writing. I am very impressed with your climbing. As for me, I am not really afraid of dying, but I am terrified of falling.

    1. Thank you again, much appreciated. Yes I think I am much more frightened of breaking my teeth, or ky face generally, than breaking my neck. That’s usually what’s flashing through my mind when I freeze up on a rock face. Strange!

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