My mind has always been stuck on the great outdoors. No matter what I was doing, I had a lingering desire to start a fire, cast a fishing rod, and tangle with a bull snake in tall grass. The funny thing is, some of my fondest memories are what I did with my gear while I was inside the house. There was one specific fishing bag I still use today that I would drag all over the house with me regardless of what I was doing.
I remember emptying and reorganizing, filling and refilling, checking and re-checking, and, most of all, daydreaming. The truth is that as I was rummaging and worrying through all my stuff, my head was imagining scenarios of how each item would be used , what I would catch, how the weather would be; I guess in my head I was making up stories. My daydreaming felt almost as exciting as actually getting out and going to a local lake or pond because, truth be told, I was an addict. I would read through fishing books and binge watch videos on YouTube with my bag by my side so I could practice what I saw or stare in wonder at the fact that the person I was reading or watching was using the same gear I had! I’d pull out the rod or lure and wonder if my tool had the same profound fish catching ability as the man in the picture.
Even now I have to resist the urge to carry my gear around the house in the hope that someone would see my wandering and ship me off to the mountains. Perhaps to a mountain I’d arrive where I would live out my days in a cabin reminiscent of Thoreau’s by the shoreline of Walden Pond. While not as urgent as it once was, I can look back and recognize that I needed to have that bag by my side to feel comfortable. I felt naked to watch an ice fishing video without my ice fishing gear, naked to watch a snake documentary without a stout “snake stick.” As near as I can tell, I felt naked in my home without having my outdoor gear nearby, comfortable where I was but knowing there was adventure to be had outside.
Like any addiction this kind of obsession still fed the psychological and physical states of my body. Just like a nicotine addict desires their smoke to calm broken nerves, I looked to the outside for that certain full body feeling of adventure and creativity. As a kid I didn’t understand what it was that made me so excited and I never gave it a second thought. I loved the outdoors and that was my reality.
Having grown up now and read about the outdoors and a human’s place within it, I am certain that other people understand the outdoors as I do. It’s so hard to explain that there are guidelines but no rules, fear but safety, and loneliness yet the most profound feeling of companionship when I am outside. Writers such as Thoreau, Muir, Ehrlich, Maclean and others have a profound ability to relate that feeling into words and reading their works is similar to taking a walk through the forest. Richard Louv is a modern author and writer of “Last Child in the Woods” but his telling of the human body’s psychological and emotional response to nature is so powerful, because I have experienced those things for myself. I have firsthand knowledge.
Now, surprising as it may seem, there was a period of time where I became engrossed in video games, believing them to be the greatest and most exciting form of entertainment. Everyone else played them and the high octane sensory stimulation was so appealing to me that I fell into gaming as an addict falls into a line of blow. This period of time was my sorest mistake yet from the ashes I grew anew. I realized that anything I do in a video game has absolutely no bearing on my life and is simply wasted away into nothing. Of all the ways to kill time, gaming was easiest. The saddest thing is, I felt the same way during this period than all the other times I carried around my fishing bag. The pull of video games was so strong that I could not even think about anything else to save my life. It’s an addiction. Non-millennials and parents to children may not understand this addiction as I do because I have lived it and broke out of this life wasting medium of entertainment. I have experienced modern video game addiction as well as the pull from the outdoors.
The culmination of this essay is this; addiction takes time to recover from. Short jaunts into the woods and local parks is all well and good because anything counts but to really feel the pull from the outdoors, a person has to spend considerable time to heal from their previously destructive habits. From my perspective, during my dark times of Netflix and Call of Duty, even when I was in Nature my mind was out of it. I was unable to focus on what was in the present because I lived for my video games and only thought about when the next time was when I could play.
Recovering addicts will always have that nagging pull to the darkness and escaping that is harder to do than I think most people believe it to be. An addiction to the adrenaline pumping, instant gratification seeking, flashing lights and loud noise blaring quality of a video game or video is much easier to fall victim to. It takes much more time for a gamer to recover into an outdoorsman than an outdoorsman to fall into the electronic trap.
It’s basic science that says we unconsciously enjoy movies and video games. The quiet and individual qualities of the outdoors will take more time to grow to love. The fact is, most outdoor pursuits cannot be “achieved” by clicking “X” because they take a certain amount of skill or knowledge to perform.
If the society we live in continues to grow hotel people then their children will grow without knowledge of the outdoors in the specific way they need to appreciate it. Being outside and appreciating being outside is different from being outside and just seeing it. The former state of being truly a part of the present is the view we need for conservation. It’s hard to save something if you don’t truly love it.
I have an addiction, a love for the great outdoors so strong, that it benefits me and I have the strongest desire to protect it.