“How are you ever going to climb big walls if you’re not willing to try to learn anything new without giving up?” Harsh reality check. And when I say reality, I can attest that these words slipped straight into my ears, permeated through my brain, and crushed my soul. I’ve always had a difficult time characterizing myself as a beginner, yet I’ve embarked on new climbing disciplines that have reintroduced me to the gumby I used to be. Why is it so difficult for me to accept the idea of starting new? Shouldn’t it be exciting to grow my skill set while embarking on bigger adventures? It should be.
I played soccer from age four until I heard my neurologist tell me I couldn’t play anymore, so fourteen years old. Too many concussions took away what I centered my life around for so long; furthermore, I had spent those ten years cherishing the skill set I had from an early age. When you start a sport young, everyone is also starting out on the same slate, so calling yourself a beginner would be trivial. I used to call soccer my everything, but what now? How was I supposed to start over when I didn’t even know how to?
Queue climbing, laughter, straight arms, crying, quiet feet, and then more crying. And more climbing.
I never had to endure the feeling of starting over and learning something new, so this experience opened my eyes to how I shitty I am at accepting it. I went to the gym and had one private session per week, but it was a continuous all-out effort to fight the need to compare my lack of skill to the skill of those who had been climbing much longer than I had. It’s still an effort not to compare myself to anyone regardless of years climbing, etc., but the intensity couldn’t be more real when you’re brand new. My first day at the gym included climbing halfway up a 5.6 and feeling too tired to move on, and the guy climbing up the 5.12 on the main wall left me both inspired and melancholy at the same time. I never thought I could get there, but persistence pays off. I sent my first 12a last spring and could only look forward to what’s to come with clipping bolts until I decided to put myself into another uncomfortable beginner situation. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s making myself feel the need to run away and hide under the covers. It should be an Olympic sport. I would totally get gold.
I booked my flight to Yosemite, and I now have under a month to prepare myself for my first big wall. Luckily I’m headed there with the only person I could ever see myself going with, my boyfriend James, so the whole “needing to run away” feeling has dissipated. I did, however, get a slap on the face by my gumby self. I started out by completely trashing the idea of climbing a big wall after one attempt at aiding in the gym, but the harsh reality check reminded me that I’ve wanted to do this all along. I threw the aiders down as if I never wanted to have anything to do with them again, but now I’m picking them back up. Being a beginner isn’t simple for me, but I was able to take a step back and reassess my attitude towards how I handle gaining new skills and knowledge. It took shedding many tears to do so, but here’s what I was able to take away:
1. If you didn’t learn anything new, you wouldn’t have any knowledge. We would all be empty and identically boring. That’s not even something I can begin to imagine, but I thought this was a decent depiction of it:
2. New skills, new places to travel, new faces to meet. It’s guaranteed you’ll pick up new friends with your new hobby/on-taking, etc., and why wouldn’t you want to expand your network? I find that one of my favorite parts about climbing has been meeting the members of the incredible community I call myself a part of, so embarking on a new discipline can only contribute to my ever-growing group of friends.
3. You’re expected to suck at first. Embrace it. It’s a luxury.
4. You only get the chance to be new at something once, so why not try to make the most out of it? I tend to forget about this one and only stew over my mistakes, but I think making the most out of everything we do is the best way to live.
5. You get to spray to all of your friends about how cool you and your new hobby are. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. Chess club in grade school was something I always liked to brag about, but hey, we all have our niches.
Now to take what I’ve said and to apply what I have reiterated in my mind probably over one-hundred times. Heading to the Valley is a trip that many only take once in their lifetime (if that), so I’m ready to make use of my time before hand to at least begin to grasp the major concepts. Remind yourself that learning can and is fun if you allow it to be. It helps you remember what you’ve learned when you’re able to find the fun in the process. Here’s to barn-dooring out of my aiders many, many more times (with grace, of course!).