Sally and I stood at the base of Olive Oil in Red Rock; I flaked out the rope and she racked up for the first pitch. We’ve been climbing together for some years now, and it’s become one of my most cherished partnerships. While I jumped right into the fray of multipitch trad climbing early on learning from trial, error, and near death experiences, she took a healthier approach and took her time learning the basics the right way. This was to be one of her first multipitch trad leads in Red Rock, and for any climber that is quite an accomplishment. It’s not easy to step off the ground into the unknown relying only on your ability, gear, and partner for hundreds or thousands of feet to the top. A party of two came running up to the base and asked if we minded them going ahead, because they were fast. We allowed it, and before leaving the ground, the belayer said jokingly, “You know what, Lauren? Toughen’ the fuck up!” And with that they were off.
Two days prior I was standing in an REI buying a makeshift camping/climbing set up after a 13 hour day at work for a spur of the moment trip we’d conjured up over the past week. There were a lot of variables, and it wasn’t until 2 days before the trip that I was sure I’d be able to go. Work in LA was heinous, and the hours long. We set a standard of 11 and 12 hour days running lots of conduit and doing seemingly impossible wire pulls and terminating 750mcm copper, which is a lot like wrestling 1″ rebar into termination lugs. By the time I left Manhattan Beach I was pretty tore up. It was the week of Thanksgiving, and it was the only time I would have to slip out for an adventure before the next grind, so without going home I split straight for Red Rock, hungry and tired and ill-equipped.
There seems to be a big trend of working less and adventuring more. I tried it. It didn’t work as well as I’d thought it would. Being a recovering drug addict who’s lost everything more than once, poverty brings up some pretty morbid feelings. When I graduated college I decided it was time to move on with my life, not to eliminate climbing and adventures, but to make time for other things–like building a decent manageable life. I should also add, that I did work full-time through college, but it still took some time to acclimate to a career oriented job, because I was so used to living by my own rules and being able to split whenever I’d like. The change was exhausting. It’s easy to go climbing all the time when you have a lot of free time, or when you have a job that you don’t really care about losing. It’s hard to go climbing when you’re working 60 hour weeks. It requires a whole new level of obsession and dedication. I found that if I am to continue pursuing my passions alongside holding down this job, then I’m going to need to toughin’ the fuck up and chase those adventures unlike I ever have before. I’m going to need to get strong.
The levels of suffering and commitment I’ve pushed myself to in the past months have been surprising to me. I’ve cranked out 20 hour days, just to wake up the next morning in another state and go climbing up the striking sandstone walls of Red Rock, and I’ve cranked out 20 hour days just to wake up at home the next morning to a pre-dawn alarm to meet friends at the El Cajon Mountain trailhead and make the grueling approach to get a few pitches in on the weekend. I wake up at 4am every morning so that I can hangboard, and do my push ups and pull ups and kettlebell swings before work in the morning. And when I get home I do them again before I go out and run. It sucks sometimes. Toughin’ the fuck up. If you love it then it’s worth working hard for.
I graduated college last year about this time, a month earlier actually, and I’ve paid off my student loans. I didn’t go out and make big purchases–I’ve been frugal with the money and paid off my shit. It’s a great place to stand, because for the first time I can look back with gratitude, and I can honestly say that all the hard work has been for something. It was not all for nothing. It’s been a long road, and not just the college, but the decade of recovery that I’ve spent building my character, integrity, and rebuilding my life! But that doesn’t mean that it’s a time to go stagnant, to throw my feet up and settle down into adulthood. Fuck that! There has never been a better time to push myself harder, to lengthen the days and the stress and the frequency, to build and toughin up and get stronger.
I hear a lot of people complain about all the reasons they can’t. I’m not convinced. Toughin’ the fuck up and make it work. There are 24 hours in a day to make use of. There is plenty of time to tick away at those goals and obligations. Get busy. Maybe that means sitting in college classes after a full day at work every night for 5 years. Maybe that means getting up off your ass after a hard day and getting active, or waking up earlier than you like to make time for yourself and your goals. Maybe it just means we could all toughin’ the fuck up a bit more and push ourselves just that much harder to get just that much more done.
One thing I know is that when I don’t get the results I want out of life I can look back and assess that I just didn’t want it bad enough–I wasn’t willing to do what it took.
Another thing I’ve learned, is that when I just accept the suffering and push through the pain and exhaustion, is that I get better; I get stronger; I get tough, and it’s always worth the gains.