This past weekend, we went to Tuolumne Meadows for a climbing trip for the second time in two months. It was also the second time in my entire life, but I thought the frequency might be more impressive than the sum. All-in-all, it was a super successful trip! Chris got his first outdoor V8 (this kid always has to show me up) and I got my first outdoor V4, with a little cheat move when I grabbed a huge knob on the arête.
In the course of 48 hours, we climbed at five boulders totaling an approach time of 7, maybe 8, minutes. For no apparent reason, my interest in climbing dipped at the end of the first day despite having fun, to the point where I mentally decided to quit, or at least take a long break to re-evaluate my hobbies. Aside from work, the gym is probably where I spend the most time on the weekdays.
This past year, I've averaged 3-4 climbing sessions per week, and 2-4 hours per session. With the help of a calculator (I confirmed with another math major this weekend that math majors cannot do math with numbers, only with symbols), that amounts to 312-832 hours of climbing in a year! Okay, I understand that is a huge range, but I have a 100% degree of certainty that this amount of climbing, not to mention the volume of magnesium carbonate I've inhaled, is disturbing! Now add to the equation my slow and sometimes erratic progress, and you can imagine the internal struggle I was facing.
What if I had focused my time, energy, and focus on other hobbies? I wouldn't even limit myself to one other hobby, but many! With the free time I had after work, I could have become a pool shark, a photographer, a part-time business owner, a dog owner, or even a legitimate YouTube star that breaks 2000 subscribers! I could have cultivated other interests or studied books that would have made me smarter. Instead, I wasted away my evenings staring at stucco and colored plastics, only to barely make it out as a V5 climber.
These were the thoughts racing through my head as we drove away from Tuolumne and into Bridgeport at the end of Day 1. I wanted to go home and forget about climbing (after eating prime rib at the Bridgeport Inn, that is). Chris could tell I was unhappy that evening, but I couldn't tell him that I was ready to quit climbing for good; that would be more heartbreaking than an actual break-up! So, I kept the negativity to myself and ate garlic toast, top sirloin (the Inn ran out of prime rib), and rice pilaf (inaccurately referred to as "brown rice" on the menu) in silence.
To be completely honest, I cannot pinpoint when I changed my mind. It might have been when I was scrolling through pictures on my camera later that night - the climbing shots were cool, but the candid shots of people messing around on rocks, collectively examining impossible crimps, or proudly showing off split fingers to each other, were my favorite. It might have been from the pictures that I realized that climbing introduced me to the first community in which I feel genuinely welcome. For my family, community comes from church, work, and childhood friends. For me, the gym is my community, my home away from home (and work).
The main reason I wrote this is to encourage people to be more open-minded about other people's hobbies, and ultimately, where other people find their sense of community. Scaling a 15-foot boulder when there are clearly easier ways to get up on the rock may seem futile, but the appeal of climbing lies in the desire to maintain the tenacity to break through physical and mental barriers, and more importantly, to develop friendships with the people spotting you at the bottom.