I’m not sure that it’s the climbing that I’m in love with. I think that climbing just helped me find the courage to go outside of my comfort zone. It’s been a catalyst. For 25 years of my life I was too scared to live. I was reading The Alchemist a few years back, and there’s this crystal merchant character that grabbed my attention. The crystal merchant lived his entire life with the dream of making a pilgrimage to Mecca but he never did. He justified his inaction because if he achieved it he would have nothing left to look forward to. His sole purpose was being infatuated with a dream that he’d never achieve.
I will never forget the sinking feeling that I felt when I read that passage. I felt hopeless, like there was a train coming that I had to be on, and if I didn’t hop on board when it stationed I would be forever left behind. It’s a terrifying feeling. It was scary enough that I acted by signing up for an Introduction to Outdoor Rock Climbing course through the local REI Outdoor School. I wanted to be ready when the train arrived.
Within months I had gone through the training I needed to set up my own top rope anchors, and had found my first climbing partner, Mario, who I still climb with today. Six months later I had a phone full of numbers, a trad rack and had done my first multi-pitch climb.
Nine months later, in mid June, the train arrived and I hopped on board bound for Lone Pine, California to climb the East Buttress of Mount Whitney. While we were driving we had joked that this trip was going to be a tipping point for me and that I wouldn’t return home. It turned out not to be such a joke.
I had never been in the Sierra Nevada. I hadn’t really left Southern California. I’d been on some adventures in Arizona, and I’d hiked all over Southern California on the PCT, but none of that prepared me for the stunning beauty and exposure of such untainted nature. I wasn’t prepared for the liberation I would find in leaving everything behind and walking out into the mountains.
I had a philosophy professor in Jr. College who said you can tell when somebody is truly passionate about something because of the action they take to make it work . People overcome deficits in life, relationships, and personal endeavors through action, and the more passionate they are about those things the harder they work and are more willing to change. My passion for life was reinvigorated, and I was willing do whatever it took to make it work.
There was no train to catch–no grand opportunity arrived. There were no signs telling me it was time to deviate. I am the vessel, and I decided when to depart. I sat around my entire life dreaming, like the crystal merchant. I was waiting for life to come and wake me up when it was time to go, and, really, the only thing that held me back from pursuing my dreams was me.
We can sit around our whole lives waiting for just the right opportunity, and it’s easy to justify with what if scenarios. What if I fail? Wait if they say no? What if my car breaks down? What if something goes wrong? So what if it happens? Deal with it when and if it does. It’s not the failures in life that will haunt us in the end, but instead the lingering question:
What if I had just tried?