Thursday 2 May 2013


   I'm sure most are familiar with the meaning of the initialism WTF, but here I'm using it to stand for "who the fuck" am I. 

   This week I rekindled an old passion for climbing. Chris and I went to Climbers Rock
Trying the bouldering wall
indoor climbing gym to meet an old friend, also named Chris and his wife Amanda. My girlfriend, we'll use Christine to save confusion, friend Chris and wife Amanda are all experienced climbers, Christine having 20+ years of experience. Myself? I had a brief and fleeting romance back in around 1993 with indoor climbing when Peaks climbing gym opened in my hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario. A group of friends and I went on a whim to check out what the hell a climbing gym might be. Intrigued, we rented some equipment, took the "belay" test and were off scaling walls. The concept is pretty simple really. One person stays on the ground tied to a rope. Then using a pulley and braking system takes up slack as the climber, who is hooked to the other end scales the wall using a variety of "holds" for your hands and feet to grip. Easy right? Well that depends on your strength both muscular and tendon, as well as your ability to read the route up the wall. There is also a lot of techniques to learn to advance, but even a newbie like myself can really have a good time. I even tried my hand at bouldering which consists of climbing shorter more difficult routes without ropes or a harness, but over a thick crash mat. I think I made about 8 climbs in 2 hours before my arms were trembling and my hands had lost the ability to grip.

   So where is all this going? In the words of the rock band Genisis "To the land of confusion". You see I love sports, well at the least the unconventional, non-team sports. I love trying new things and fall in love easy. I also become obsessed with learning and mastery when I discover something new that I like. My first thought leaving the gym was "when can I get back here?!". Then I began to think about a discussion the four of us had in the gym that night. Chris is a bmxer, a runner and he and his wife both climb and do yoga. Christine is a cyclist, backpacker, climber and runner. We had a conversation about how can you fit all the things your passionate about into your life. We had no answers. Part of my reasons for quitting my job recently and going to something with a lot less hours was for this very reason, more time. More time with Christine and more time for my passions. So finally we reach the initial question, "who the fuck am I"?

   I've spent my whole life trying new things and then "becoming" those things and by that I mean it becomes my identity. I sometimes feel like a chameleon. I have always had the ability to slip into another lifestyle and blend right in with everyone else. In my pre-teen years I was a martial artist learning jui jitsu until a back injury from a homemade zip-line left me bedridden for an entire summer. I became a cross-country runner in public school and obsessed over that. Now I was a runner. In middle school I finally talked my parents into letting me have a skateboard and quickly became a skateboarder. This was it for me or so I thought. My entire identity revolved around being a skateboarder.
I wore bandannas and suspenders hanging off my shorts because that's what the pros in California were doing. No one got me or my style other than my fellow skateboarders, but that's how we liked it. I have been a skateboarder for 25 years now and until last summer that's what I considered myself to be. If you asked what I did or who I was the answer was simple, I skateboard therefore I am a skater. the last few years I felt my skateboard prowess slipping away as I worked harder and harder to keep up with the next generation. Last year was the tipping point and after getting dominated by their power and speed at a contest I no longer felt like I was a skateboarder. It's strange just how much I had tied my identity of being a skateboarder to the necessity of being a really good skateboarder. That's when I discovered triathlon and through triathlon discovered running. Now during my many years of skating I sidestepped into a few other identities.
I became a hardcore mountain biker for few years, got sponsored by Kona bikes and didn't skate very much. In my mind though I was still a skateboarder who also mountain biked. I got into parkour and gymnastics for a couple years, but I simply saw it as an extension of my skills learned as a skater.

   So where am I now. I'm not sure anymore. As I discover new endeavors to grow and develop in I fell awash in how to describe myself. An identity crisis of sorts. Oh and did I mention I'm a songwriting and guitar player that spent a couple years to record two albums of original songs?

I still skate and mountain bike, this year with the addition of road cycling. I'm racing a lot as a runner so I certainly feel that it is a part of my makeup now. I began swimming again in anticipation of my triathlon racing this summer. Am I a swimmer too? I also fell in love with camping last fall when Christine took me to Algonquin and now have a list of items to purchase to begin my life as a hardcore backpacker. Now climbing has been thrown in the mix.

So who am I?

   I am a skateboarder, mountain biker, road cyclist, runner, swimmer, triathlete in training, weight lifter, yoga practitioner, musician, juggler, outdoor enthusiast, backpacking hopeful, newbie climber, loving boyfriend, ex-chef, ex-carpenter with obsessive tendencies for learning.

This is Ryan Brown in all my confusing glory and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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