Notes from a Cinephile

Humans have always held a fascination with storytelling. The form has evolved from spoken legends, hieroglyphs, and cave drawings, to those born of recent technology, such as films, comic books, and even video games. It is something that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, and the list of benefits is long. Though, I don’t think I can convey its capacity for influence better than this scene from Dead Poet’s Society (directed by Australian Peter Weir). I’ve been interested in films for many years. My passion flourished when I began college, and was further realized when I was appointed Director of the International Film Series at the University of Northern Colorado. It was a paid job, but I would have done it for free. We used 35mm film (which is not cheap), and ran it through a projector from the 50’s. It did require occasional troubleshooting, but the history and novelty made it worthwhile. It was, too, a laborious process, as it takes great care and precision to run through a projector – at least one as old as ours was. If you’ve never seen a canister of 35mm film, you should know that they are awfully heavy, and film reels can be up to thousands of feet long. The best part of the job was having a key to the theater. I was never explicitly told not to watch films for my own enjoyment in the theater, so I definitely did that. One of my favorite films, Melancholia, directed by Lars von Trier, was available on Amazon to rent before it was released in the US. I certainly didn’t want to pay $10 to watch it on my laptop, so I ran it through the computer in the theater, and I watched it on the big screen. Watching films by myself in the theater became a regular occurrence. I even watched some of my weekly TV shows, such as Shameless, in there. Again, best job ever. (Funny anecdote – As I had grown comfortable doing this, I would smoke an inordinate amount of pot before heading to the theater. The DVD player software on the computer set up in the theater has a playback feature that allows you to slow or speed up the rate of play. If done in small increments, it is unnoticeable. I began watching The Turin Horse, which is a slow-paced art film, and I, apparently, hit the button to slow the playback speed by mistake. It took me 45 minutes to realize what I had done. I was like, “Jesus, nothing is happening…” It turns out, in that 45 minutes, I had played through about 15 minutes of the whole film. Don’t get high and operate machinery.)

Lindou Theatre at the University of Northern Colorado
Lindou Theatre at the University of Northern Colorado

Through the years, I discovered that movies can be much more than cheap entertainment (and that America hasn’t fully realized this yet). I grew to love the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Ingmar Bergman above all others. These two are master craftsmen, and I beg you all to familiarize with their work. Jeunet is a French film director, who you likely know, but don’t know you know, from the movie Amelie. Though, in my opinion, not his best, it is his most well-known. Ingmar Bergman is a golden god, lauded as one of the greatest directors and auteurs by many others in the field. His films usually deal with heavy topics, and display the human condition in a way no other has been able to. This particular scene has long haunted me.

I got crafty and made a coaster set with images from Jeunet and Bergman films.
I got crafty and made a coaster set with images from Jeunet and Bergman films.

Movies assist in development as well. My generation was that of the animated Disney musicals, which instilled in us many cultural traits. It was our introduction to heroism, revenge, and even death. It was not uncommon for a child to be introduced to mortality via the passing of Mufasa in the Lion King, or to the consequences of untruthfulness in Aladdin. I would argue, though, that children are not the only ones capable of gleaning truths from films. People learn through witnessing cause and effect in stories, and films place you in roles you might not otherwise realize. This is what makes films from all over the world especially valuable. Some illustrate universal truths, while others reveal situations and cultural perspectives that have the ability to enlighten the viewer. This came out more like a public service announcement than I intended, but I think I adequately answered Tinbergen’s questions, if in a roundabout way.

GOALLLLLL!

If life is like a John Hughes movie, in high school I would have been labeled a “jock.” From ages six to twenty-two, I played soccer year-round. One of my youth teams was even ranked number one in the nation, if only for a day. By the time I made it to high school, I preferred the center midfield position. I enjoyed controlling the movement of the ball and being in the center of the action. I had a tendency to unnecessarily dribble into the thick of things just to see if I could find my way out. While admittedly not the fastest player on the field, I had excellent ball control and quick feet. The problem was that the varsity team already had those central midfield positions filled by two well-respected players who had the ability to play as one unit. This unfortunate situation provided me the opportunity to reinvent myself as a player. It turns out that I am a natural striker. Over the course of four years, I scored roughly 120 goals and assisted around 80. Captain. All-county. All-state. State Champion. Most Valuable Player. Player of the Year. I personally identified as “soccer player,” first and foremost.

Women's Soccer State Championship, 2007. Camille Morgan, MVP, bottom center.
Women’s Soccer State Championship, 2007. Camille Morgan, MVP, bottom center.

This self-image started to evolve when I decided to turn down the recruitment efforts of a small college in favor of a university with highly respected academics. In college, I chose not to try and walk-on to the varsity team. Settling instead for club soccer, I then I had time to work in the archaeology lab and join a sorority. My outside identifier became more complicated and more geared toward my academic accomplishments.

Photograph courtesy of Wake Forest Magazine, Face Time mentorship article.
Photograph courtesy of Wake Forest Magazine, Face Time mentorship article.

While I still inwardly identify as “soccer player,” I no longer immediately communicate this label to my colleagues. At a recent departmental luncheon, “fashionista” was the nickname written on my sandwich. Fashionista! This must be the Twilight Zone!

Historically speaking, communal sports provide the skills necessary to succeed in hunting or warring. Developmentally, games and sports are often played by adolescents as a part of socialization and enculturation.  Proximally, I chose soccer because that is the sport my older brother played. I am extremely grateful that he steered my athletic abilities toward the best sport in the world. I trained my mind to read plays and trained my body, turning complicated moves into muscle memory. To this day, I walk with my right foot pointed slightly outward as if a ball might at any moment come careening toward me. Functionally, I am and will forever be a soccer player.Game on.

Run it! Run it!

Sing the title of this post to “Run it” by Chris Brown while watching this gif and tell me you didn’t smile.

I wrote this before I realized someone else also wrote about running as their hobby…. hopefully our posts are different enough to not be redundant.

Me after my first 5k!

Running is not something I ever thought I would enjoy. Even after I started running for fitness, I did it infrequently. I would push myself too hard, injure myself, and have to back off before I could do anything else. Last year, I decided I wanted to participate in a color run (specifically Color Me Rad). I learned how to pace myself and trained like crazy. I discovered it was something I enjoyed… a lot! I even decided I would sign up for the running class here at UA (who doesn’t want class credit for doing something they love?). Anyway, here is my experience with running using Tinbergen’s four “Why” questions.

  • Historical: Legends of the first marathon come from Greece in the 5th century BCE. After the Athenians defeated the Persians at Marathon, Pheidippides was tasked with delivering the news to Athens.
    Statue of Pheidippides on Marathon Road

    He ran approximately 26 miles (the length of a modern marathon) to deliver the news, and subsequently collapsed and died from exhaustion. Competitive marathon races were started in the modern Olympic Games in 1896 to honor this part Greek history.
    Let’s rewind a little bit before moving on. In the 16th century, jogging was a common part of training for swordsmen. In the 19th century, running was part of the training regimen of many athletic sports. The modern running fad was started when Bill Bowerman published Jogging  in 1966. Recreational running was born from these events.

  • Proximal: Why did I start running? I actually hated running for P.E. or really for any other reason when I was younger. My mom used to say “I will only run if I’m being chased” and I adopted the same philosophy. I knew people who played sports and even some who ran for fun, but it never interested me. In fact, I actively avoided it.
    My pre-running/post-health craze stage at color guard camp (I’m in the pj pants… it was early)

    In my later years in high school, I became interested in health. I restructured my diet, started exercising outside of P.E., and discovered I really enjoyed it. However, running didn’t come until later. The real reason I started running is vain and I’m hesitant to even admit it. I was reading health-related articles one day and read that long distance running releases hormones that slow down aging. I was sold! (I’m pretty sure this is not what I read but it’s the same idea. This, however, says HIIT is what prevents aging.)

  • Developmental: Thinking back on it, I became interested in health at the peak of my adolescence. I was already concerned about how I was viewed by my peers. All teenagers are. However, the concept of “dieting” wasn’t really introduced to me until high school, when some of my friends joined the dance team and were required to maintain their weight (something about extreme weight gain/loss throws off your center of gravity, resulting in bad form, injuries, etc…) which I thought was horrifying at the time.
    With the color guard my junior year before a parade!

    But, of course, I wanted to fit in, so I  joined in. I was also a member of the color guard throughout high school, and if you’ve ever tried to toss a flag into the air you know it takes some strength! I found that I really enjoyed learning about nutrition and health and why our bodies work the way they do.

  • Functional (physiological): A theory developed by David Carrier
    Quidditch on the Quad my freshman year… a LOT of running was involved in training/playing

    suggests humans are evolved for long distance running, specifically to facilitate hunting. This is called the Endurance Running hypothesis. Here’s a fairly short video of David Attenborough talking about persistence hunting in the Kalahari and it’s awesome:

Running On

 

I began running in the form of track in the eighth grade.  I, unfortunately, was sick on the day of sign ups and was automatically put in the two mile race where no one wanted to be and where there was plenty of space for me.  Initially I hated the “long distance” (only considered long distance in the context of track & field) but in the fall of my eighth grade year I somehow found myself surrounded by a bunch of sleepy eyed cross country runners.  I wasn’t good.  I finally improved enough by the end of middle school to justify trying out for the sport in high school and I wasn’t good at any other sport anyways.  However, when I arrived for tryouts I found that really there was no such thing.  Running was a place where people go when they are either made for running or aren’t made for anything else and so we had no tryouts.  What we did have was an abundance of runners at various levels.  I was a slow freshman.  We worked out very early, often before the sun rose.  My coach was very skilled at her job and I credit her to this day for helping me to learn how to run better.  I slowly improved and by the end of my first high school season I was actually enjoying the sport, my team, and making vast improvements in race time.  Running is something I came to love very much.  My favorite races ended up being the mile in track because of the swiftness of it and how you can also feel your competition at your heels and the half marathon or long trail runs.  Unfortunately, during my freshman year at college in a fit of youthful over zealousness I ran a succession of half marathons (maybe 2 or 3) then a 16 mile trail run all within a month or two of each other and ended up injuring myself.  At the present moment I cannot run much or far but it is a long term goal of mine to recover and enjoy running again.

To explain my running in Tinbergen’s terms:

  1. Historical (Evolutionary): I believe this is somewhat straight forward.  Humans adapted bipedal motion and then running so that they could better hunt prey for survival and reproduction.  We don’t have to run to hunt now but we are able to run for incredibly long distances.  I believe ultra-marathoners run more than 100 miles at a time illustrating that we could run for very long distances if needed.
  2. Proximal: I had to join a sport or take a physical education class in the state and city where I lived and I was loathe to take P.E. in high school.  That is why I decided to run track and cross country.  I knew I would never be good enough to make it in high school volley ball and basketball which are relatively competitive in my area.  So I joined the reject sport and it turned out alright.
  3. Developmental:  Joining the team also served a social purpose in my life.  It makes sense to me that the school practically forces kids into organized sports, band, or something else.  Being part of a team certainly was important to my high school experience and was probably the best part of it.
  4. Functional (physiological):  Need I say it? Runners high!  I’m actually not sure what this sensation is supposed to feel like because I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced it.  I can say that after waking up at 5am and running we all certainly felt better.  We were happier than most people are at 5, 6 or 7 in the morning.  Our metabolisms seemed to be good and our appetites were certainly stronger.

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    I won’t be running this fall but I will be enjoying Bama football!

It’s Not O.K. to Hit

I'm number 1, literally.
I’m number 1, literally.

I was raised in a physical family. Happy, sad, or angry my life has always been a tactile one. I grew up channeling this into sports and theater, not very well I might add. I am known among my circle of friends as the hitter, especially if I’ve imbibed. People put up with it because they like my personality and because I assume that everything else about be is fairly up to snuff. This is just a quirk that must be tolerated in order to get to the good stuff. However, in my junior year I found rugby. A sport that relishes in the clash of bodies, broken bones, and a bit of blood. In my first season I hurt my hips, I my second I was hospitalized for a lower leg injury. I was punched in the face, thrown to the ground, and bruised and bloody on the regular. And I loved it. There is only one thing more satisfying than showing off an injury from a good hit. And that is telling all your friends how you elbowed a girl twice your size so hard in the throat that she cried. Actually it’s probably the look on their faces after you tell them with such gusto that really does it. My history definately factors in here, as in noted earlier. On a proximal level I hit when I am hit. Developementally I am of an age where I feel the need to seek out a social group that meets my needs. And functionally speaking, I have an evolutionary drive to engage in physical activity, which probably stems from an increased fight response as opposed to flight. Frankly I enjoy the roughness and rugby facilitates that. It is simply a place where it is finally ok to hit.

Shooting the Breeze

This picture was taken during a regatta.
This picture was taken during a regatta.

 

Growing up on the coast of Mobile Bay, I was always intrigued by the water. It wasn’t until I moved to Tuscaloosa until I truly realized how much I would come to miss living on the coast. I wanted to entitle this post as “Shooting the Breeze” because it does not only relate to my sailing activities, but it describes my life interests thus far in many ways. I enjoy exploring. I want to focus on exploring in this assignment, with a concentration on the particular hobby of sailing.  The term “shooting the breeze” is actually a quite common saying, and it has its origins in sailing. In fact, in this first picture of me here I believe I am in the process of doing just that. At the beginning of a race, competitors will inch towards the starting line. You simply let go of the sails, and the boat drifts towards the direction in which the wind is stronger. It points to the direction that gives the most power, and when the race gun goes off, you go with that information given to you. Sometimes it’s wrong.  All the boats take off in that direction at one time. It’s overwhelming.  It’s awesome. It’s exhilarating.  In essence, that’s exploring for you. You can’t quite figure out the exact answer of where you are going or how to get there, but you can begin.

 

Yay pretty sun
Yay pretty sun

Historical: No one in my family has a history of sailing. I guess you could say that their ancestor’s ancestors sailed over to the New World long ago. My Great Grandfather sailed over here from Italy.  My mother in many ways is an explorer: in her career, her love of surfing, and marrying my father (that last one is just meant to be funny, they’re happily married 32 years). My father is an explorer in many ways, too. He’s always trying to understand the world around him, and he loves exploring the wilderness. I think that their combination definitely played a role in getting me to explore the world around me. After all, it was my parents who encouraged me to start summer sailing camp over ten years ago. My parents always challenged me to look for the beauty in the world, and I think this helped mold me to love exploring.
Sailing itself, however, can be traced back for as long as people had access to the resources. Technology has obviously changed, but the concept still remains. Sailing is arguably both one of the greatest achievements and greatest vessels of destruction that mankind has created. Exploring definitely depends on the person doing the exploring. It can be the most invigorating experience, yet it has had and will always have the power to destroy.

Proximal: The distant proximal cause of me sailing: my parents wanted me to partake in a fun camp, and the rest is history and practice. The real proximal cause: I’m too competitive for my own good. I happened to show off in front of the fleet captain one day, and she thought I’d make a great addition to the team. Sweet deal. Years of traveling the Southeast in regattas was great. Every time I go back home I always make it a point to sail. Even if I can’t participate in a regatta per say, I love just getting on a boat and letting the wind take me where it wants. It’s an interesting feeling, sailing: you think that you’re in control of this machine, but in actuality all it takes is one freak gust of wind and you capsize. I’m serious. It happens to the most skilled sailors. But I digress. I’m not too sure where my element of constantly challenging myself comes from. But, when you’re on the water so much that mentality just becomes part of you. Every single day will be a different experience on the water, and you simply have to challenge yourself to get out there or you just won’t get the thrill.

Developmental: Sailing is a great sport for anyone of any age. It’s incredibly versatile. I think that exploring should always be a part of your life. Getting out of your comfort zone is what makes life interesting. I want to see the world. Which, as a 22 year-old college student, is not an uncommon statement.

Functional: Navigation is not something that belongs to humans. In fact, many species of animals have very well-adapted patterns of navigation and migration that have been studied by scientists all over the world. However, humans have a curiosity that, when matched with resource technology, can turn into ingenuity. We wanted to get to meet other people, get better resources, raid for better resources, etc, and had to go somewhere we hadn’t been before. We had to talk with people we hadn’t met before. Overall unfamiliarity with a place or situation, yet pursuing the trip sounds like exploring to me. In a more focused lens, however, sailing is a huge part of coastal life on Mobile Bay. If you’re not doing one water sport, you’re doing another.

Wildebeests migrating in Tanzania. Source: Image Source 

Exploring the world is, simply put, my favorite past time. The best way to explore, in my opinion, is to get out on the water and sail. There’s so much out there. The horizon is my only limit.

In many ways, the open sky is like the open sea. This hike was incredible. At such high altitude, you seem to see more clearly and you feel like you can reach the sky. That may have been the coca leaves talking, though. Taken in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru

 

 

 

Shredding it

After my senior year of high school, my best friend Zak and I decided to devote our summer to building and learning how to longboard. We went to Lowe’s; bought plywood, wood glue, sand paper, fiberglass, and clamps; and before you could say, “Gnarly, bro,” we had built two absolute death traps.

We both eventually caved and bought boards, but not after  we’d encountered sufficient amounts of road rash and angry motorists.

longboard
My little sister on my death trap longboard and myself on my newly purchased longboard.

Historical: None of my family members (except my sister) have ever been into any type of skateboarding.  About 5,200 years ago (3200 B.C.E.) Mesopotamians realized that their pottery wheels could be used for transportation, and since then, wheels have become integral to  industrialized society. The first skateboards arose in the 1940’s-1950’s as a way to “surf” when the waves were down. They eventually became mass produced and are now used for recreation and transportation.

 

Proximal:  Zak and I decided to build our longboards after watching this video.

(let it be known that I will never be that good at skating)

Basically, I started longboarding because it looked so freaking cool and fun, and I wanted to be freaking cool and fun. Plus I figured that it would be good exercise and a means to get around a new college campus.

 

This is back when I was stupid and rode my death trap longboard down hills without a helmet. You live and you learn, I suppose.
This is back when I was stupid and rode my death trap longboard down hills without a helmet. You live and you learn, I suppose.

Developmental: I was moving away from home 3 months after I started skating, so I was desperately trying to gain my independence from my parents and my family and discover myself. I wanted to gain a hobby that no one else in my family did. Longboarding seemed to be the perfect original/rebellious act for a middle class white girl living in the ‘burbs.

 

Functional: Unlike other apes, humans have an achilles tendon. This is critical for longboarding. .  The motion used to kick-push a longboard or skateboard is the same as running. Without the achilles, running and kick-pushing would be awkward and difficult, and humans probably wouldn’t be able to balance on a skateboard.

Road Trips

Ever since I passed my driving exam and got my driver’s license, I have enjoyed driving.  This has been especially true of me when it comes to road trips.  Every time I have the opportunity to, I like to take road trips, whether by myself or with friends.  This past Christmas, my family all met up in Cleveland, Ohio to spend Christmas together, and even though my younger sister, who also lives in Tuscaloosa, decided she would fly up there, I packed up my things and my dog and road tripped the both of us to Cleveland, stopping at historical sites and museums along the way.  When I came to college from my parent’s house in the Bay Area of California, my parents flew one of my friends out to California and we road tripped from there to Huntsville, Alabama.  We spent a week travelling in my MINI Cooper and visiting sites such as the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest.  I find that taking road trips in a weird way gives me a sense of tranquility.  Driving has a calming affect on me, which is why I will sometimes just get in my car and drive when I need to calm down or have something to really think about.

A picture of my current car with snow at Christmas!
A picture of my current car with snow at Christmas!

Historical: Leading a lifestyle in which one frequently travels is very reflective of many people historically.  Historians believe that the people who initially settled this continent were nomads, as well as many others who lived before them and after them.  Native Americans were often forced into a nomadic lifestyle because they were constantly hunting the buffalo and would move based on where the buffalo were going.

Proximal: My outside causes are very often my family.  If I want to see them during the holidays, I have to travel to where they are, and, if possible, my preferred method of travelling to them is by driving.  Sometimes I am forced to fly, but most often these days, we are meeting in places that allow me to drive and road trip with my dog.

My dog, Dobby, and I stopped at Abraham Lincoln's birthplace!
My dog, Dobby, and I stopped at Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace!

Developmental: When in college, most people like to travel and explore as many new places as they can.  This usually manifests itself in study abroad programs or Spring break vacations.  As I am usually working during Spring break and I will not get the opportunity to study abroad for financial reasons, my desire to explore new places manifests itself in my road trips.  Often times, I will stop somewhere just because I saw a sign for it somewhere or I extensively plan the spots I want to stop at because I know already that there is something interesting there.

Functional: Driving is something that requires a lot of coordination on the part of the individual.  Such coordination is definitely an evolved behavior.  Much of it is also learned.  There is a reason why you have to be a certain age in order to apply for a driver’s license, and I think a lot of that has to do with a person’s ability to perform the tasks necessary to drive.

Me at the Grand Canyon!
Me at the Grand Canyon!

Ich Kann Klettern.

As I stood on a cliff face looking down to the ground a whopping 30 meters below, past which was another 200 meter drop, I wondered, again, what the hell I was doing with my life. The answer was easy: I was rock climbing in Croatia. The more difficult question was why. On the surface, I shouldn’t have been: I unfortunately inherited much of my father’s fear of heights, I was never one of those kids climbing trees or jungle gyms or fences or anything, and I had never had an interest. But here I was on yet another climbing trip, and I was loving it.

DENSE IRREG

Two years ago I started dating my boyfriend, a climber and an employee of UA’s Outdoor Recreation program, leading climbing trips and working the indoor rock walls. He spent months trying to convince me to climb with him, but I resisted up and down. It had no appeal for me, it wasn’t my thing, I didn’t want to try to learn something he was so good at, just no. But when I moved to Austria in January for a semester he pushed harder: “You’re in one of the climbing capitals of the world and one of the birthplaces of climbing as we know it. If you ever decide to climb later in life, you’ll regret it. You should really learn there.” I still wasn’t convinced, but when the first real friend I made in Austria, Gemma, invited me to indoor climb with her my very first week in Austria, I took it as a sign and said yes. Indoor climbing – and this was actually bouldering, which is a little different – was so much more than I thought it would be. Though still an important component, it’s so much less about the physical aspects, as I had assumed; it exercises the mind, and that happens to be one of my favorite things to work. Quickly I was hooked on both climbing and this new girl and over the semester both our friendship and our climbing blossomed. We’d hit the walls twice a week or more. As soon as the weather was nice enough, we joined some friends for my first ever trip outdoor climbing. I didn’t know a damn thing but they harnessed me up and let me give it a go. When I topped out (made it to the top) on my first climb. I was hooked. I came back down but couldn’t wait for my chance for that physical and metaphorical high again. My family couldn’t believe me when I told them – this girl who hated heights was scaling 10, 15, 30 meter walls. But it’s not so tough to believe when looked at from Tinbergen’s behavioral concepts.

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Historically, there were no ladders and roads and neatly trimmed hiking trails in Mother Nature. Our human ancestors climbed when they had needed to. They climbed cliffs, rocks, trees, whatever they needed to do. Rock climbing started out of necessity, but by the Victorian age was becoming a part of the sport of mountaineering, and by the late 1800’s was beginning to be seen as a sport. Going back even further, apes are climbers. Not as extensively as monkeys or other primates, but they still climb. It makes sense that all humans still have that instinct and that ability within them. And on a related note, that fear of heights I have – not a true phobia, nothing paralyzing – is just a rational aversion to dangerous situations evolved from this very skill: Climbing is okay, as long as you’re careful. Functionally, we’re designed to be decent climbers. Not great, and certainly not nearly as good as other animals, but we still have some basic adaptations for it. Notably, our hands and opposable thumbs which we can use for grasping. Our legs are (on some of us, anyway) flexible enough to manage stepping up some pretty big distances. We have enough strength to support our bodies via even tiny ledges, whether it be by standing on it or by holding onto it. And finally, we’ve got the complex thinking capacity to figure out routes (and the capacity to figure out alternate routes when those first ones don’t work out).

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Proximally, I wanted social acceptance. I wanted to befriend this Gemma girl who seemed like someone I could like (man oh man I did). I wanted my boyfriend to quit bugging me (now he just bugs me to climb with him). I wanted to be able to belong to and hang out with another group – the occasionally douchey but prevalently accepting and encouraging group that is Climbers. Climbing is an intrinsically social activity – outdoor climbing requires at least one other person to belay you (unless you’re one of those sort of weird people who prefer climbing alone via setting up automatic belayers – I’m looking at you, random dude I met in Croatia). It’s an excellent bonding experience. When you let someone else belay you, you are literally entrusting your life into their hands. Beyond that, most climbs require some hikes and some help and those all beg for talking and bonding. Beyond that social acceptance, I maybe wanted some acceptance from myself: I wanted to prove to myself that I could overcome a fear and push myself to do something like that. Developmentally, this need for social acceptance and self-growth are both appropriate for a 20-something college student. I wanted to fit into a social group as well as expand my social connections. This is a prime time for humans to explore who they are and hone their hobbies. I am young enough that I will take more risks than someone more settled in life with a family and children to worry about. I am in prime physical condition for such a sport. (Though all the little kids/monkeys are way better climbers. Hmph.) I was in the right place and time in both the world and developmentally to pick up a brand new hobby and I’m so glad I did.

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The Road

One of my greatest hobbies is traveling. With my dad’s family in Oklahoma and my mom’s in Missouri, we make eleven hour drives every Fourth of July and Christmas to both states. When I was around 8 or 9 we made a three day long road trip to Arizona in a RV.

Main Street in Heidelberg.
Main Street in Heidelberg.

Because of all this, my love for travel started pretty early on in life. I’ve continued that in my adult life by going on road trips with friends. I’ve been to every southern state, a few in the Northeast and Nevada, Texas, and Arizona in the Southwest. The most recent trip was in the spring when my sister, a friend and I drove to Austin, Texas. On our way home, we stopped in Galveston and New Orleans to visit friends and have a quick drink. By the time we finally got back to Huntsville, we had been driving for around twenty four hours from our beginning point in Austin. I’ve also been to New Jersey and New York City. My international travels aren’t nearly extensive, but I played soccer in Australia and visited a friend in Germany after my senior year of high school.

Historical: Moving around has always been a part of human history and ancestry. Our ancestors were nomadic, and this movement ultimately resulted in our species’ global distribution. Many species have seasonal migration patterns, and even humans mimic this behavior. Like the snowbirds in Florida, my Missourian grandparents decided to spend their winters in a much milder climate, so they now live semi-permanently in Arizona.

My friends and I in Time Square. It was 37 degrees and I couldn’t feel my toes.

Proximal: This one is pretty easy. UNA, UAH and UA pretty much always have the same week off for spring break. This allows my friend from UNA, who is equally as down to drive long distances, to plan road trips. All of the spring breaks lining up also means every college aged human being will be flooding the beaches of Gulf Shores and PCB to party and get hellish sunburns. We try to avoid this while still having fun, so we travel to more non-conventional locations. My friends and I in Time Square. New York City was an interesting destination, but I’m not really looking to spend another spring break in freezing rain and snow. Money also plays a huge role because it controls where we can go. We usually end up staying with someone’s family.

Downtown in Austin, TX.
My favorite part about Austin, TX was the fact that they had three different Urban Outfitters downtown.

Developmental: A great part of travel is about going to new bars and parties. But another (smaller) part is about experiencing life in other places. As humans, we spend a lot of time learning self-identity and finding out who we are. Getting away from the known allows us to experience something new, learn what we like and don’t like. I don’t plan on living in Alabama forever, and I always travel to places that I would eventually consider living in. It’s also really interesting to be a part of another city’s culture and every day activities. Being part of something new is so refreshing when I’ve fallen into a routine of stress and schoolwork. When I’m in a new place with no real worries, I can look back to my real life and see what’s important to me and what I want to change without pressure to perform skewing my perspective.

Functional: A good sense of sight is necessary to be able to drive and travel. The hugely developed depth perception is also necessary.  Driving also takes a good bit of hand, foot, and eye coordination. We also use a good bit of cultural knowledge to help navigate, such as street signs, maps, and GPS systems.