I was scared to take the plunge, to leave NYC indefinitely. But I felt backed into a corner so I held my nose and jumped. This winter has taken me to some pretty wild places and I know that I should feel rich in experience right now, but I don’t entirely.

I’m scared of not having any seed money, of supporting myself on the road. I’m scared of not meeting new friends. Of being alone. And most of all, I’m scared of starting over.

Despite that, I’ve always thought that the nice thing about being in your twenties is that you can be amorphous and that there are no set limitations on how many times you can change your plans. I had a lightbulb moment when I realized that it didn’t matter when it happened. It could happen in ten years, maybe fifty. It could happen on a Tuesday.

Propelled with this new thought, I started making my way back east. I thought it was time to revisit Chattanooga. Despite winter temperatures, it was now prime climbing season for Tennessee. Now in February, the murmur of spring days far behind us, you can still bask in the golden sunshine at the T-wall.

I even did a little bit of bouldering. The Brain (V6/7). Photograph by Zack Slade

Izzy Isara came out to meet me and we fired up Love Handle (5.10b). Once I had a taste of Tennessee Wall roofs, we moved to Infinite Pursuit (5.10c). Love Handle varied from crack to face to roof (and yes we got to thread the love handle!) but the roof on Infinite felt infinitely more committing. Before starting up, Izzy asked if I’d like to take some of his doubles with me. I said no, thinking, “I climb on a single rack in the Gunks all the time.”

But T-wall is not exactly like the Gunks. I considered bailing onto another climb out right, but came back, took a deep breath, and committed to finishing the roof. Quite a bold section of climbing.

Rob Robinson told me about the first time he laid eyes on the beautiful cliff line, and for a brief moment, I saw what he saw. I felt what he must have felt, and understood how these cliffs captivated him. And then he told me to keep going for it: “You can always desk it later in life.”

Lately, I go back and forth about my decisions. But this is hard because if I keep second guessing myself, I’m living two different lives. You don’t always get to play the “what if” game, and sometimes you have to take the free-fall. Izzy said to me after Infinite Pursuit, “You made me realize that you are the primary piece of protection…and everything else is redundancy in the system.”

Everything else is redundancy in the system. I am the primary piece.

T-wall. Photograph by Nick Lanphier

The fall is temporary; it’s just like anything else in life. It’s about having enough patience for the inevitable landing. I can’t do anything to change that. I can only worry about changing what’s in my control before then. So, what’s truly stopping me but myself from enjoying the view on the way down?

Cover photograph courtesy of Nick Lanphier.

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