Ivy is my favorite almost five-year-old Brooklyn kid. She’s sassy and smart, and I came to know and love her the way you often come to know and love the best people in your life—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.”
It’s easy to forget how much we can learn from kids, but luckily I’ve been blessed over the years working with so many of them that I’ve got constant reminders in my daily life. Also, five is kind of a big deal.
I smiled as I wiped my hands together and thought, Coolio. My job here is done.
With less than a week left in the northeast, everything in my life started exploding: my car suddenly developed break issues, random and expensive tickets that hadn’t been paid off yet started popping up in the mail, and that’s when my laptop exploded. I was ready to strangle somebody.
Of course, all of these things would seem much more reasonable if I could be feeling one hundred percent confident about my decision to head back west, but fears and doubts don’t really work that way. But I suppose that the point is to not pick goals where the stakes are so low.
During a small goodbye brunch on Sunday, my apprehension was obvious. Oscar Zambrano told me a story about his father. He had received a job offer that would basically pay for the rest of his retirement, and he gratefully accepted it and was then handed a check. Not long after, he then was offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to sail around South America—it was a dream of his for some time. He handed the check back.
Oscar said that he didn’t know if he would be able to turn the job down. Knowing the stresses of money problems (the one where you don’t have any), I told him that I could have leaned towards taking the job offer over the trip.
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.
“Well, Patagonia.” Duh.
I left brunch thinking about what makes me happy versus what makes other people happy really is what makes this world such a beautiful place. Ivy said it best. 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.)
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. You tend to take certain things for granted, over the years but suddenly I was aware of all of the things I was going to miss. I’ve always appreciated city life. When I was growing up, I declared in my early teens that I must live in NYC one day to indulge in my love for people, culture, music, and art.
And so I did. I made it happen.
Moving to Brooklyn was honestly the scariest thing I could have done at the time. I resisted the idea when Birk and I were dating, and it’s one of the reasons why we broke up. Now, I consider it my home base. For me, there was no greater place to experiment with who I am than NY.
I drove past apartments, brick walls, and other places where memories of the people I love are deeply ingrained within the structure of each and every building and block and bodega. They live inside each metal beam and wooden piece; they are the stone, clay, and timber.
And now they live in me.
Brooklyn Boulders hosted a shindig this past weekend where I was able to say goodbye to the NYC climbing community that I’ve been blessed to be a part of for the past several years. I was moved by the number of people who made it out. Throughout the night, I heard over and over again: “If you need ANYTHING…you always have a home here.”
George Gong asked me to say a few words, and even though I HATE public speaking, I begrudgingly I accepted. I looked out at the small sea of faces and could feel tears in my eyes, but I didn’t cry.
That’s when Sivhoung Prom, a woman I’d met at BKB a few years ago, pulled me aside on her way out. Life had swept her off to Peru for a brief period of time, but she came back to the city recently and we were able to reconnect. She is a climber, surfer, and explorer of life. I love her for her heart. The feeling of two souls that connect but don’t necessarily 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.
Maybe that’s why ANYBODY comes into our lives. Some stay and others will wander back out—but they’re never really that far away. Distance is only distance. Love makes leaps and bounds over it.
Her eyes were brimmed with tears as she told me that I was her first climbing friend in NYC and that I had been a huge inspiration to her in the short amount of time we’ve known each other.
Her words 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 has never been 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.
Siv said, “Climbing makes me happy, and I remember you telling me a long time ago that climbing made you happy, too.”
So live for happiness, follow your joys and find and give help and inspiration when you can.
Thank you, Brooklyn Boulders and friends, for sending me off with more love than my heart can carry. You have made my life special by being a part of it.
And here’s to the next adventure.