On being "tough"

I kind of value being “tough”, where that means some combination of “physically fit” and “able to tolerate discomfort.”

Some people who are insanely “tough” would be, like, Shackleton or the guys in Meru. Some people who are more reasonable but still very “tough”: probably Appalachian trail through-hikers, or your average mountaineer. Some people who are less tough than that but still tougher than me: more regular backcountry hikers, many-day cyclists, dirtbag backpackers.

Why do I value being “tough”? I think it is some combination of these:
1. I want to be able to do anything. Like, we just hiked the Inca trail; that was amazing but required a certain amount of “tough"ness. Similarly, I have had camping trips with friends I am now glad to know better; I am glad I didn’t have to say “sorry, I’m out because I’m not “tough” enough.”
2. I tend to admire people who are “tough”? Maybe this is just coincidence? Like, there are very many people who I like a lot who are not “tough.” Besides, it’s correlation at best.
3. I’m afraid of the life experience of being very non-“tough”, or of being the average American. Like, the average American has diabetes and a job they hate. That doesn’t sound fun. Maybe if I’m tough I can avoid that.
4. I’m afraid of being contemptible by being very non-“tough”. Something like “you coddled rich American, you can’t even do a hard day’s work (or hike a thing or whatever) if you had to!”
5. I’m afraid of being “the wrong kind of nerd.” Like, socially clueless, unkempt, unhealthy, without good skills, generally pitiable. (Being a math nerd, Magic player, computer gamer, etc, I have met many people like this.) “Tough"ness doesn’t exempt you from being this but it does correlate negatively.
6. Maybe “tough” people are on to something! Like, runner’s high, or some kind of peaceful sense from being in the woods. Usually when I’m in the woods I feel 10% beautiful-peaceful, 40% bored, and 50% tired/dirty. Maybe I can grow that 10%.

I think, of these reasons, I should do the following:
- try to jettison reasons #4 and #5; they are just insecurity and judgment, which are not cool for me or other people.
- worry less about #2. You meet who you meet, and I meet plenty of both “tough” people and “not-super-tough” people.
- worry less about #3; I think I will be fit and healthy enough regardless of whether I go camping often.
- be open to #1 and #6, and continue to do some “tough” things when the opportunity arises, but not go out of my way to prove a point.

I don’t know what the sum of these changes looks like, but it’s probably some kind of “trying to be kinder to myself for being exactly as “tough” as I am.” Well, we are all growing, bit by bit.

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