I live what feels to me like a busy life that until recently was continually ramping up. By February of 2020, I had developed a habit of only checking the following week on my calendar. Would I be traveling? For what did I need to be prepared? Would I be headed out of state? Overseas? Or maybe I would have a precious week at home. That month, in particular, I was in both New England and Michigan, climbing and presenting on climate change at a variety of different locations. As that month started to wind down, I got on a flight to Brazil for a project in which I was seeking out solutions that could be developed to preserve the Amazon rainforest. Travel had become an essential part of my life and work as an athlete, storyteller, and activist, and there was no end in sight.
Then, of course, everything changed. My travel came to a screeching halt, along with everyone else. The news became terrifying, much of my work in content creation dried up, and all of my speaking engagements were either canceled or digitized. Turbulence and insecurity became the norm for myself and my community. Collectively we grappled for stability.
Outside of my marriage and the ever-present love of Pebble, our dog, I was hard-pressed to find the solid ground that I felt I needed to push ahead with my career. The world was chaotic and constantly changing, forcing everyone's decisions to be reactionary. Desperation also caused deep issues in our communities to bubble to the surface in profound and essential, yet challenging ways that forced me to rethink my role in society.
Not all of these things are bad, many of them are exceptionally important, and with the right work, they will have positive outcomes. But in the here and now, they are generating instability. And I have been seeking tools to help me regain my footing, to help me move forward and continue to be effective.
Surprisingly, I have found it in that same calendar on which I was so reliant when keeping track of my hectic travel agenda. But instead of looking at next week, I skipped over the next few months. I started to look at a further time horizon of six to 12 to 18 months from now. I started digging into long term planning, unlike I had been able just a few months before.
I've started looking more closely at things like an expedition to the Karakoram in the summer of 2021, for which I can start training and planning now as well as the November election, which is far more critical than ever. Shannon and I have started thinking about bigger plans than just the coming weekend, and instead, we are looking at parts of the world, both near and far that we wanted to adventure. I've been provided a view of what parts of my travel were necessary and that could be dealt with, far more efficiently, via video call or simply email.
I have also found time for the reading and learning on the subjects of climate, race and policy, for which in February, I never had enough time.
This long-term planning and learning as it applies to my work in climbing, advocacy, and content, has made the short term a little easier to deal with, and it has me excited about the future. And within that, I have managed to find something of a silver lining.
Friends, look after yourself in the present and plan for the future. This chaos that we are currently living in will calm down, and when it does, we want to be ready to get back to making the world a better place, for everyone, and exploring the wild places that we love.
—Graham Zimmerman is a professional alpinist and storyteller based in Bend. He's a partner at locally based Bedrock Film Works, where he strives to share stories about the power of the outdoors and the importance of protecting our climate and natural spaces.