Why do you climb?
Why are you in school?
What’s driving you to keep going?
The first question, “Why do you climb?” was asked by my boyfriend while I sat underneath a boulder problem, trying desperately not to cry or say terrible things about myself. I didn’t have an answer for him. I felt stupid, weak, and ready to throw the towel in on this whole climbing business. I’d felt my climbing stagnate for years. I’d watched friends cruise through boulders that I so desperately wanted to finish. I’d tried training consistently and hard, drinking protein shakes and feeling sore everyday, only to feel like nothing was improving. At that moment I hated climbing. I hated how stupid and inadequate I felt. I hated how scared I was. I hated that I hated it.
So I stopped. I popped in and out of the gym to work out, but didn’t spend much time on the walls. I only went outside while my mom was in town and to take photos for companies that needed them, but it wasn’t like it used to be. I marched with millions of women around the world. I filled out postcards to my senators. I tried to engage family members in constructive political dialogue. I burned myself out on everything else the world gave me. In the midst of this my therapist asked me, “Why are you in school? What’s driving you?” I looked at her and without pausing said, “I have to fix this mess.”
The weekend Kathy Karlo came to the Southeast was hectic and frustrating. I didn’t want to go outside on my only day off when I knew I had homework. Atlanta was hosting two protests that same free day, one for immigration and one for the environment, and I felt obligated to be at both. The night before I was supposed to go climb with her and our friend, Shaina, we debated the benefits of four different areas, knowing that any one of them might get rained out. Between our desire to make life easy for each other, our indecision, and the perpetual sludge of doom that is Facebook these days, everything felt like too much. I started crying, and my boyfriend, who I’m pretty sure has been constantly trying to keep me from crying ever since November 8, held me and quoted Martin Luther King Jr. at me.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
He made me tea and told me to go to Horsepens 40 the next day. He’s a smart boyfriend.
The trip reminded me of why I do all the things I do. I climb to meet new people, like Tim Foote. I climb to encourage and support my fellow climbers. I climb because I get to be in and enjoy some of the coolest places this planet has to offer. I climb because sometimes, if you’re doing it right, it’s freaking fun. I’m in school to protect these places, to write articles explaining why this is important, to make sure that when I can fight back against those who do not care or who wish to do harm to these places, that I can do it with every fiber of my being and to the fullest extent. Similar to mantling out on slopers, this whole business is a struggle. It requires pushing, grunting, some good cursing, ridiculous try hard faces, and the support of everyone else around you (and a Wonder Woman crash pad) to help you get to the finish line.