I remember a long summer afternoon when, as a young girl, I sat amongst long blades of grass while plucking the petals off of those common little white flowers. With the first between my fingers: ‘he loves me.’ The second: ‘he loves me not.’
With childhood innocence, I placed all my hope that as the last petal fell, it would foretell a positive fate.
At thirty-one, I now of course chuckle at the implications of that little pastime. Yet twenty-some odd years later, I find myself playing a similar version of that game where the ‘he’, rather than a boy with brown eyes and a bright smile, is instead outdoor climbing.
My relationship with this sport has been unstable at best, and nothing like I thought it would be: When spirits are high, it finds a way to grind me down to striking new lows. Other days, routes I start with the utmost apprehension are often completed with yelps of enthusiasm, leaving me wanting nothing but more.
One day it loves me. The next it doesn’t.
Like plucking daisies, like playing roulette, like reaching for that hold I don’t know exists, no matter how I stack the odds, my outcome is somehow still left at random.
Frustration. Strength. Defeat.
Hope. Doubt. Exhilaration.
Those I climb with often have seen both sides of the coin. If I learned four languages there still wouldn’t be enough words to express my gratitude for their encouragement, patience and plentiful words of wisdom.
If it is such a struggle ‒ if an enjoyable climbing experience may as well be left to the fate of a flower ‒ why continue?
Because I appreciate challenge, and the fact that things fought for often reap the greatest rewards.
Because even when I can’t see progress, there is a sliver of faith that it must be there somewhere.
Because what good would it be to quit? The only thing left at stake is pride.
Because of the places it takes me, the people I meet, and the memories it creates as a result.
Because I understand my biggest weakness is my mentality, and climbing has become the tool to make it stronger.
Because for every negative experience there are least two positive lessons learned.
Because I want to be a strong climber. And Rome wasn’t built in a day.