I spent last weekend at the New River Gorge in West Virginia. It was an unplanned trip, the week before Kathy Karlo texted me asking if I would meet her there to do some filming for Arêt Baseware. I was determined to go. The week before I left was awful, I fought with my boyfriend, I seemed to be messing up every single class day and by the time Thursday came about I was exhausted, angry, and decided to just leave after the printer at work was unable to print out my homework. I needed to leave. I ran to Whole Foods, bought snacks and yogurt for the weekend and took off on my seven hour solo road trip. I listened to ABBA almost the entire way there.
If you’ve met Kathy Karlo, or follow her on her blog or instagram, you’ll quickly realize she’s impossible not to love. She’s ferociously passionate and pours out love for the people around her. I called her while walking around Whole Foods, debating whether to just leave for the New or hang around for my last class and hit traffic. She told me to do whatever I thought was best, that if I wasn’t going to ruin my grades that may be giving myself a mini vacation might actually be good for me. She was right. She usually is.
Only three weeks prior, after getting down from the top of High Exposure, a route in the Shawangunks, New York, she had commented on an instagram photo of mine. The comment wasn’t profound (although she totally did call me “awesome”) but something about the validation she had given me for my fear compelled me to reach out to her. I’ve watched her fight her way through offwidths while cracking jokes and periodically sticking her head out of a crack to smile. If anyone can give you a pep-talk when you’re scared out of your mind and don’t know what to do about life, it’s Kathy. Here was her pep talk to me:
Everybody gets scared, Alma. Even the people you think are always brave. But the funny thing you don’t realize is, you’re one of the brave ones. Just because you don’t handle a situation flawlessly doesn’t mean you didn’t handle it. You did it, even if you were kicking, crying, and screaming. And you did it because you’re braver than you realize- so you have that in your ammunition belt the next time something seems hard. Every hard thing you do will put the next hard thing into perspective, and will somehow seem easier as you go along.
PS you’re such a BAMF.
While these words might not have prevented me from crying on top of everything during my trip with my boyfriend, they settled into the back of my brain and after seven hours of driving and a day spent filming, climbing, and swimming in chilly water, I decided to lead a route. I felt confident and calm. I had ABBA stuck in my head, and clipped draws to the tune of, “Well I can dance with you honey,/ If you think it’s funny,/ Does your mother know that you’re out?”
That same day I did more routes than I had in a long time and left West Virginia feeling like I’d spent an entire week relaxing in my bright pink donut floaty instead of only a few days. Kathy Karlo is a freaking unicorn of a person. And maybe she knows this, but she has without fail been a constant nudge (or shove) of encouragement and not so subtle hints to keep following whatever strange blog writing, environmental activism, feminist ranting, and photography doing path I’ve found myself on. So here’s to Kathy. Here’s to everyone that is enthusiastic and encouraging at all the right moments.