If I said I was not afraid, I would be totally lying. Fact is, its 1:30 AM and I am sitting at my messy desk entering receipts and numbers for the month of June. The house sleeps, even Cami, our chocolate lab gave up waiting on me and retired to her bed. Why am I doing this if I am so afraid? I have asked myself these questions nearly everyday of my life. I recall climbing a rock wall for the first time when I was 8 years old at Kings Island. It looked incredible, until I was 20 feet up and nearly went catatonic with fear and begged to be lowered. That rock wall stayed on my mind and I wanted so badly to try it again. Though I have always been terrified of heights, I kept climbing every chance I could find and found that the majority of my fears were not based on actuality but rather imagination.
A few weeks ago I was climbing a classic Red River Gorge climb called “Bed Time for Bonzo” with my good friend Tim. About 100 feet up, the route made a turn onto a ledge before following a crack to the summit. Once on the ledge, I stopped and looked down and I froze with fear. My hands started trembling, I wedged a piece of protection into the crack and then I shoved another cam behind it. I stayed on the ledge too long, the longer I stood the more rampant my imagination ran about the trajectory my falling body would take if all my anchors failed or my rope broke. I imagined myself breaking my neck, shattering my spine, puncturing a lung before going unconscious. The mental imagery became really awful as I thought about how my wife and children would react in my fictional mental situation. I then stopped my destructive train of thought and looked at the incredible sunset to my back that I was neglecting. I took a deep breath and reflected on the reality that my probability of having an accident would be greatly increased by attempting to retreat downward. In the words of Robert Frost, “The only way out is through”, so I took the gear I had left, I leaned back and climbed upward off the ledge and 5 minutes later I was at the top. I put Tim on belay and a few moments later we watched as the sun disappeared in a sea of orange clouds as the valley floor below us slowly covered with fog.
Climbing has afforded me this moment and so many more like it that I simply won’t ever forget. So why am I doing this? Why am I walking away from a reliable paycheck, job security, retirement and everything that just makes sense? Because life is precious, its short and I want to live to see the view from the top, even if I am terrified. I want the freedom to have just a few more minutes with my kids. I want to work hard with my hands, I want to build our own reality, our own dreams. What if it all crashes down? What if the phone does not ring and jobs don’t come? What if I make mistakes and fail? What happens if I mess up our taxes? What about the things that I know I should be worried about but I don’t know what they are yet? These are all thoughts that I have at 1:30 am and maybe I am wrong, crazy or delusional but I feel strangely confident that Frost is right, the only way out is to simply push through this.