Ivy is my favorite almost five-year-old kid who I came to know and love through absolute happenstance. We were making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches one afternoon and as I was cutting the crust off of her bread, she looked up at me and said: “You know, some people like the crusts on and some like them off.”
I wiped my hands together and thought, “Cool. My job here is done.”
The friends you choose in life are meant to be your teachers. My greatest teachers always seem to be four (I’m okay with that).
I forget how much we can learn from the cognitive mind of every almost five-year-old. Five is kind of a big deal; you start to become an enthusiastic problem solver and substantially more social (I recall attending WAY more birthday parties at five than I did four).
Ivy’s “EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS A PARTY” face
Do you know the feeling of leaning back in a chair, and then you lean back a little too far and start to fall, and JUST at the last second, you catch yourself? I’d been running around the tri-state area, and finally with less than a week left in the northeast, everything in my life started breaking: my car suddenly developed break issues, random and expensive tickets that hadn’t been paid off yet started popping up in the mail and my hard drive exploded. I was ready to strangle somebody…maybe the dog.
And then enter the uncertainty that comes in many waves, and at all of the most inopportune times. Of course, it would be much more convenient if I could be feeling one hundred percent confident about my decisions, but fears and doubts don’t really work that way.
But the point is to not pick goals where the stakes are so low.
Back to my first year learning to trad climb in the Gunks. Photograph by Dan Cohen
During a small goodbye brunch on Sunday, Oscar Zambrano told me about a job offer his father had received years ago. It would basically pay for the rest of his retirement, and he accepted and was handed a check. Not too long after, he was offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to sail around South America – a dream of his for some time. He handed the check back.
Oscar said he didn’t know if he would be able to turn the job down, and I commented on how we never know what decision we’ll make until we’re in a situation where we have to decide. I think I could have leaned towards taking the job offer as well.
Then Oscar asked me: “If you were given the choice of climbing with Alex Honnald in Patagonia or $500,000 in cash, which would you choose?”
I didn’t even blink.
I left brunch with the realization that what makes me happy versus what makes other people happy really is what makes this world such a beautiful place; some like the crusts on, and others like them off. (Any serious sandwich enthusiast can agree that there is no such thing as a “wrong” sandwich.)
Fort Tryon bouldering on Christmas day. Photograph by Dirk Peters
Living in NYC for the past four years, it had become easy to forget about all of the little things that made it so special. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate city life, but there was a considerable amount of time being devoted to scanning guidebooks, researching topo maps and doing gear inventories. You know. When I was sixteen, I declared that I must live in NYC one day to indulge in my love for people, culture, music and art.
Moving to Brooklyn was honestly the scariest thing I could have done at the time. I resisted the idea when Birk and I were still dating, and it’s one of the reasons why we broke up. And now, I consider it my home base. For me, there was no greater place to experiment with who I am than NY.
Home for over two years; I miss this kitchen every day. Photograph by Sean Hamrock
I drove by apartments, brick walls and places where memories of the people I love are deeply ingrained within the structure of each building. They live inside each metal beam and wooden piece; they are the stone, clay and timber.
And now they live in me.
BKB hosted a shindig this past weekend where I was able to say goodbye to the NYC climbing community I’ve been a part of for the past four years. I was moved by the amount of people who made it out, and especially for hearing these words with such consistency: “If you need ANYTHING……you always have a home here”.
Like Jared always says, “Try or fly”. The good old arch at Brooklyn Boulders
George asked me to say a few words, and even though I hate public speaking, I grudgingly I accepted. When I looked out at the small sea of faces, I could feel tears in my eyes but I didn’t cry.
It wasn’t until Sivhoung Prom, a woman I’d met a few years back, pulled me aside on her way out that that it hit me. Life swept her away to Peru for a period of time, but she came back to the city recently and we were able to meet again. She is a climber, a surfer and explorer of life. I love her for her heart. The feeling of two souls that connect but don’t know each other very well is indescribable. Siv says it’s an estranged but familiar energy between us, and maybe we knew each other in another lifetime and are just crossing paths again to be inspired by life.
“Be happy! Let your heart feel.”
Maybe that’s why ANYBODY comes into our lives. Some stay, and others will wander back out – but they’re never far. Distance is only distance, because it’s something love makes leaps and bounds over.
Her eyes were brimmed with tears as she told me that even though we aren’t very close relationship-wise, I was her first climbing friend in NYC and that I had been a huge inspiration to her in the time we’ve known each other.
Her words alone have made every hard question (and all of the answers I didn’t like) during last four years worth it. Because beyond climbing, beyond summits and sends, I have to believe that it’s about the fellowship that comes along with it. It’s never about me; it will always be about us. It’s about the connections we make that we can’t necessarily explain to others but we feel in our hearts.
And we know that they feel it, too.
“Climbing makes me happy,” Siv said, “and I remember you telling me a long time ago that climbing made you happy, too.”
Live for happiness, follow your joys and find and give help and inspiration when you can…
My future rope gun
Thank you, Brooklyn Boulders and friends, for sending me off with more love than my heart (or Honda) can carry. You have made my life special by being a part of it.
And here’s to the next adventure!