Fact: fear stops so much of what we do. But after one life-altering day in the Gunks, Caitlin stopped putting things on hold and made some big changes because she saw what happens when you lose the chance—when you always think, “I’ll do it later.” and then later doesn’t exist.
This episode is brought to you by Deuter, Gnarly Nutrition, Roaming Ingenuity, and Dirtbag Climbers. Music by: “Jazzy Frenchy”, “Cute”, and “Funny Song” by bensound.com, “Ichill” by Kakurenbo, “Trippin at the Party” and “Pives and Flarinet” by Podington Bear, “Brave” by Borrtex, “The Flight of Lulu” by Possimiste, “Southside” by Lee Rosevere, and “Twinkle Twinkle” by David Mumford.
(KATHY KARLO): This podcast is sponsored by Deuter, one of the leading backpack brands that will help you hit the trails with confidence and comfort, but most importantly–your snacks. Deuter is known for fit, comfort, and ventilation. Stay tuned for a new line of women’s climbing packs, coming out any day. I can’t tell you which one, but stay tuned for more about Gravity SL line–made by women, for women.
Deuter has a history of first ascents and alpine roots. Their head of product development even climbed Everest once, in jeans (hashtag not fake news.) Founded in 1898, Deuter believes in good fitting backpacks, so you can focus on way cooler things like puppies, pocket bacon, and gettin’ sendy, whether at the crag or in the alpine.
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– This podcast gets support from Gnarly Nutrition, one of the leading protein supplements that tastes “whey” better than they need to, because they use quality natural ingredients. So, whether you’re a working mom who runs circles around your kids on weekends or an unprofessional climber trying to send that 5.13 in the gym, Gnarly Nutrition has all of your recovery needs. The only question you need to ask yourself is: Are you a sucker for anything that tastes like chocolate ice cream? (Yeah, me neither.) Gnarly Nutrition is designed to enhance your progress—and taste like a milkshake, without all the crap.
– Have you ever cut an exterior hole in your van? Me neither. Building out a van can be hard work, not to mention that table saws have a funny way of leaving you with fewer fingers than you started with. (We’ll ask Tommy Caldwell all about it when he returns my emails.) I really can’t be trusted with power tools since a drywall incident in 2005—but Mark and Anthony can. Roaming Ingenuity is a team of outdoor enthusiasts and tinkerers based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Whether you are looking for a custom van build, or just need a little help with installing a roof vent, they can help. PS—I never actually emailed Tommy Caldwell.
(CAITLIN MAKARY): Every step of this till now—it’s all new. I mean, working with another facility—that’s new. I’ve never done that before. This is the first time—we’ll figure it out. I was definitely pretty anxious about the break in delivery service from my kitchen shut down because we never missed a delivery since we started—no matter what was going on. Didn’t matter the weather, the staff, someone was sick—we always delivered.
(city traffic in background)
(FEMALE NEWSCASTER): Santizo was one of a hundred and eighty-five small business owners from bakers to chocolatiers who work out of the 200,000 square foot shared commercial kitchen. But now, she and other tenants can’t fill their orders. Many of these startups say they’re still scrambling to find a new workspace and this could put some out of business. Others worry about the ripple effect this closure will have on the entire local food industry. In Bushwick, Brooklyn. Natalie Duddridge, CBS2 News.
(CM): So obviously, that hurt really bad to feel like I was unreliable to people or they were expecting something that they didn’t get. My accounts have been massively understanding. It’s been so nice and really reaffirms to me the type of people that I work with. Because I do know a lot of other small food producers that sell to bigger companies—and not that size is a problem. You know, you look at Newman’s Own—that’s an amazing company that’s a big company. Patagonia: I think their hearts are totally in the right places. So, it’s not about a size thing; it’s about an intent—like, the intention of the company. And so, I’m just always trying to be aware of what our intentions are, how we’re getting bigger, and so, you know, I hope that I can just kind of keep that guideline there. But yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. It’s kind of crazy that it’s just that—like, it’s just banana bread.
(KK): Ok, so if you’re wondering what banana bread has to do with rock climbing…well, maybe nothing. Maybe everything? Let me back up. Caitlin Makary is a climber and the founder of DANK Brooklyn, a company that she started in 2016 with no prior experience and only eight thousand dollars to her name. But she wasn’t always a climber and she didn’t always own a banana bread empire. For a decade, Caitlin has worked in corporate fashion and clothing design. She has done everything, from factory sewing to selling vintage clothes to designing clothes for puppets. So, how do you go from working in corporate fashion for ten years to…banana bread? And again, what does becoming an entrepreneur have to do with climbing?
(CM): I had all these other business guiding points that I looked at for different reasons. Like, one of them is that company Baggu. Emily Sugihara, the founder, and I actually interned together at Proenza Schouler when we were both in our early twenties. And when I had heard that she started this company, at the time I’m still working in design and I was a little bit like, “Oh. That’s—I mean, that’s cool that she has her own company, but it’s just like a bag.” I thought that, you know, as a designer, you’re like, “I’m going to be making all these different garments and people are going to be wearing my clothes.” But she just did everything about that in the perfect way. It was before everyone and their mom was offering a free tote bag with stuff. It was when people were starting to realize that using plastic bags wasn’t a great idea. She made this single item in a bunch of different colors that she could probably source pretty readily. She understood the manufacturing aspect of clothing design and so, she could get it done. And because it’s dead simple, you don’t need to have things in size buckets. And she’s expanded the company a million times over since then, but just having an idea where it was the right time for the market and it was an accessible price point. I mean, everybody has Baggu stuff. It’s so ubiquitous. You see it walking around the city in New York every single day, and to have that much product that you put out there—that’s huge.
That was one of the companies where I’m like, “You just have to keep it really simple ‘cause you’re not going to be able to afford a lot of stuff at the beginning.” And so, having it be one item was really the only way that it worked for me—and that only worked because I wasn’t a baker. I know other bakers who have businesses that are trying to go after the wholesale market. So, when they have a sales meeting, someone will be like, “Oh—well, could you also do a corn muffin?” or “Could you also give me a croissant or something?” And they’ll say yes ‘cause they wanna make the sale—and I would have said yes, too. But I couldn’t—‘cause I didn’t know how to do any of that shit. So, I was like, “Oh—banana bread’s our specialty! It’s really just the thing that we’re best at.” And then, you know—go from there. But having it be so streamlined for me was the only way to make it work. Because I wouldn’t have been able to juggle the rest of that stuff.
(KK): Yeah. Also, who eats corn muffins?
(CM): (laughs) Well, they’re good with chili.
(KK): You’re listening to For the Love of Climbing Podcast. This is not a climbing podcast. Well, sorta. This is a funny, sad, and somewhat uncomfortable podcast about choosing vulnerability and talking openly about our pain. This podcast is sponsored by Dirtbag Climbers. Here’s the show.
– Caitlin and I started climbing around the same time when we were both living in Brooklyn, New York. For Caitlin, it was like flipping a switch. She loved every aspect of climbing—she loved being outside and learning new skills, and climbing taught her that she wasn’t fully happy unless she was trying new things and being challenged. Caitlin learned how to trad climb in the Gunks, which is where she and her partner, Casey, were on November fifteenth—the same day as Heidi.
(CM): I was talking about it with one of my bakers just last week. And so, somehow that story had come up. And we were driving to the train and he asked me about it. He wanted to know more about it—if I hadn’t minded talking about it. And I told him, “Dude, this changed everything for me.” Along with a couple other things that happened: I had an uncle that summer that passed away super suddenly. He’s in his late sixties but he was a pilot, and you know, would have regular checkups every six months. He was always healthy—didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, active, everything. Goes to the hospital for chest pains and he died three days later and no one saw that coming. It was a really horrible, very unexpected situation. So, those two in the same year—it was just like, it just made me look at everything in my life because at that time, I had been a designer at Nautica for seven years and I was in a relationship about the same amount of time. And I honestly just wasn’t happy with any of it. I wasn’t happy at work. I had moved up a lot in the company—I was started out as an assistant designer and by the time I left, I was the senior woven’s designer for the entire international and American divisions.
(KK): So, just kind of a big deal.
(CM): (laughs) I mean, I had a boss there for the first five years that I just loved. And so, that was why it worked for me. She’s the person I look at now whenever I’m trying to be a good boss to my employees ‘cause she was one of a couple that I’ve had that are amazing. And so, that was really worth it for me ‘cause that company’s a lot more conservative than I would normally go to, but with her, it kind of worked. And so, there was that. But I mean, I was even up for the design director position and I went to school for fashion design! Like, I was working in my industry. You know, my grandfather was a steel mill worker in Pittsburgh and had six kids and would still come home after a twelve hour day and be present as a father, and it’s like, I feel like I’m being a little bitch. I’m working in my field. Like what else do I want kind of a thing? You know, it was a very cooperate company, but I’d worked high end before, too—and there’s pros and cons to both. And I just didn’t know if I was being a baby. I’m like, people would kill for this job. It’s safe, I get paid all the benefits, like whatever, it’s great. Technically.
And then, my friends over the years had been getting married. You’re kind of taught to assume that you’ll get married—not even expect it or want it, but it’s just something that happens in life. At one point, you get married. At one point, you have kids. And I was totally on that track. Like, there was one time when I was not not trying to have kids ‘cause I was in my late twenties, I’d been with my partner for five or six years at that point, I love kids—I love being around them—and I’d just think, “Ok. This is kind of the time in life when you do this thing.” And so, I wasn’t not trying and it was just luck that I didn’t get pregnant then because that year my sister got really ill and moved in with me and so I helped get her healthy over the next year and a half. And having that level of responsibility for another person made me realize that I didn’t think that I wanted kids. And I would have just done it otherwise.
So, all these different factors are basically looking at what’s expected of you. I had a great job, I had a good person—it just wasn’t working for me. And I had to decide whether or not I felt like those concerns were valid. The experience with Heidi in the Gunks and my uncle—I just thought, “You know what? They are valid. I’m not happy. It doesn’t matter that it looks good to somebody else or that I should feel happy according to someone else. I’m not.” Climbing was so integrated in the reasons why I decided to change everything in my life. And everything changed.
(KK): Heidi Duartes Wahl was considered one of the strongest female climbers from Chile and she was living in New York at the time. She and her partner were starting up the infamous Yellow Wall, a 5.11 Gunks classic, when she took a fatal ground fall on the 5.7 pitch. Heidi wore a helmet that day and took a twenty-foot fall that any of us could have easily taken, which is maybe one of the hardest parts of her story to reckon with. This tragic accident affected so many people, as tragic deaths will so often do, but it also did something else. It sparked a change in a complete stranger’s life and sent Caitlin on a new path that would change—and continue to change—her life, forever.
(CM): While we’re up on the wall, someone comes running down the trail yelling that there was an accident. And so, we simul-rapped off and Casey ran ahead while I pulled the rope because we didn’t where or what had happened, and so we didn’t know if we were going to have to climb to someone and get them off the wall. Once I pulled the rope and I started running down that trail, I somehow realized that she was on the ground, so I just ditched everything as I was going. And then we get there and she was getting CPR from one of the rangers. And I knew her partner—not well, but I knew him. And so, they told us all to just stay there and wait because the paramedics were gonna come and they were going to need help getting her off the trail ’cause it was up a steep approach trail that was covered in leaves and everything. And so, we waited and it just really looked bad. I’d never seen an accident before like that and her hand was just paper white. They were doing CPR the entire time, but it just didn’t look—I mean, she definitely was unconscious, but I couldn’t really tell other than that what was going on. And weirdly—didn’t really feel anything. And I remember thinking about that—just thinking, “Why am I not freaking out right now? This is kind of crazy.”
And so, the paramedics get there and we put her on a board and then, basically, all the hikers and climbers that had gathered around stood shoulder to shoulder and passed it down the trail and then I helped put her in the truck. I remember seeing her harness laying on the ground and it was in pieces and I was just like, “Did her harness fail? What happened?” And then I realized they’d cut it off of her and the helmet, too. And Casey and I went back and all our stuff was still on the wall. So, we went up Andrew to the ledge ‘cause we had a haul bag—we were practicing hauling and everything. And we hadn’t eaten or drank anything since we’d started super early in the morning. And so, we sat down for a minute on the ledge and then I just totally lost it. That was the minute when I was just like, “This is what she wanted to be doing right now.”
You know, you don’t even think that it’s gonna look like what it does. Like, you think about falling when you climb, especially when you’re learning—it’s scary as fuck. And, you know, even when you’re good at it and you’re doing a hard climb—like, you always think about what the consequences are and you should. It’s dangerous. There’s reasons why people wear helmets and have good partners that they climb with and, you know, all that stuff. But yeah, you just don’t think about what the reality of it is gonna be. And so, that really affected me and it still does daily, I mean, I don’t think about Heidi every day anymore—but I think about it a lot.
(KK): Witnessing a traumatic death would make any human contemplate the flickering nature of life. But, it’s almost a too-easy thing to ignore in day-to-day life, when we’re busy making plans and checking Facebook statuses and thinking about which takeout place to not order from this week so that they don’t start to think you can’t read a cookbook.
“A death is considered traumatic if it occurs without warning.” That’s a pretty broad definition, and we’ve heard a lot of stories from people about loss and death but—what about grieving the death of someone…you didn’t know? Caitlin had never met Heidi before, but she had essentially witnessed her last breath of life. While the specific nature of Heidi’s death is traumatic by definition, how we process these things will inevitably always come down to how the event is experienced by the individual person. Seemingly, at first, not much in Caitlin’s life had actually changed. Big picture? She still went to work every morning, she still lived in Brooklyn, she still ate pizza and she still had to feed her cat. In between all of those moments, there was still a lot of change happening. Even if she didn’t know it. But, life went on and Caitlin didn’t stop climbing, either. Climbing and baking are directly related for her. In the past, she would bake banana bread to use to bribe friends with—that and a little gas money in exchange for rides up to the Gunks.
(CM): It started from this vegan recipe that my sister had, and I never had all the right ingredients in the house. So, I would just use what I had and substitute ingredients and just cut certain things out completely, which with baking, you’re really not supposed to do that. But I cook for myself a lot and I never bake, so it was just more that approach of, “Ok—eyeballing things and throwing them in a bowl.” But everyone always really liked it.
(KK): Fast forward a couple of years later when a new guy Caitlin had been dating one day suggested that she sell the bread. Caitlin’s response?
(CM): No. Like, how? What do you—I mean, I’m—I had no experience in food—ever. Never waitressed, never bartended, never worked in any food service industry—ever. And there’s rules for that stuff. You know, like you can’t just randomly start selling something. I’m not someone who loves baking, like, just gets a whole lot out of it. It was more just like, “I like how this tastes and my friends like it, too. So, when we don’t feel like bringing lunch to climb, we’ll just eat this instead.” (laughs). And so, yeah. I never thought about it—even considered it. And then, I started freelancing at this other job that my old boss from Nautica had basically poached me for this company and it was full-time for a while, but it was horrible. So, I was like, “I’ll give myself a year here.” ‘cause a year off is a reasonable amount of time on a resume. And so, then in that time, basically the company wasn’t doing well. They decided to cut staff and so, I kind of started thinking about the bread. ‘Cause I was like, “Well, ok—let’s pretend that this is an idea. What would I even call it? What would it look like?” I kind of looked at it from a visual standpoint just ‘cause that’s what I knew.
Then I broke up with this guy—it was insane. Like, the most traumatic crazy break up experience ever and I just went into a hole. I didn’t want to talk to anybody, I wasn’t eating properly, I lost weight. I was just in this crazy state of mind and that’s when I just like—I think I spent four days in the house. Just like, I would go to work and I’d come home and I just, in four days, created the LLC, I made a website, I did all the graphic work, got the whatever initial permits I needed and I just threw myself into work. It was just one of those moments when you’re like, “Who cares? Like, why not? Like—why not.”
(KK): It was the culmination of everything that had happened in those two years that made Caitlin really and honestly ask herself: why not? It was Heidi, it was climbing—
(CM): And also, my mom in the last couple years—and this could be literally its own podcast on its own—but my mom had to start over her life. And she, at the age of sixty, went from volunteering at a food bank to being the garde manger, which is the chef that’s responsible for all the bar items and salads and appetizers at one of the fancier restaurants I’ve ever been to. She was second guessing her worth and all the stuff that she brings to the table and her experience and I was just like, “Dude, you work on the line with men that are half your age and you’re one of their best employees.” She ended up getting another job and now she’s lead line chef at this other incredibly fancy restaurant, and she did this at sixty. So, I was like, “If she can figure that out, I think I can try it.” (laughs). Yeah. You don’t ever have to stop learning new stuff. You can literally start over whenever you feel like it (laughs). That was a really good thing to realize.
I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about why people stay at jobs that they actively hate for years—and it’s fear. And I’ve asked other bosses, I’ve asked other people along the way: “Why do you think that that happens?” ‘Cause I was right there, you know? And I was doing that exact thing myself. But it’s fear. And so, if you can get over being afraid when there’s no real danger, then that makes everything more possible. But, I have to say (just so everybody who happens to hear this knows): I don’t have kids. I don’t have anyone I’m responsible for financially. I don’t own my house; I rent. You know, there’s all these factors that made it work for me, personally. And I do know other business owners that, you know, have whole families and have different financial obligations to other things and, you know, it does change it. It doesn’t make it impossible. I know tons of people that do that. But I’ve had a very fast and light approach to it. I’m not responsible for much else besides me and my cat.
(KK): Caitlin told herself that she wasn’t going into debt over this, so if she couldn’t make it work and make ends meet, that’s it. The company’s done. But, with a little bit of moxie and a lot of grit, she put her head down and got to it. There was a parallel between entrepreneurship and climbing for her; because climbing has so many parallels to everyday life, Caitlin saw that. Having the experience of learning how to lead mentally prepared her for the challenges of becoming a business owner and a baker.
(CM): Even things like assessing risk and dealing with fear—climbing taught me so much of that. Because you get in situations when you are genuinely scared and you’re like, “Am I scared or am I in danger?” ‘cause there’s a difference—and if I’m just scared, I can work through it. That skill was valuable so many times. Like, I learned how to ride a motorcycle when I was in my thirties—I mean, I am in my thirties now. But that was scary! But I just thought about leading, you know, for the first time and I remember taking thirty minutes to build an anchor ‘cause I was so freaked out that it wasn’t going to work. And you’re like, “Ok, I can learn that. I can figure it out and I can keep myself safe and I can do it here, too.” And then, same thing with the company. It’s like, just mitigating fear and that anxiety response in your body or just dealing—having it, but just doing it anyway. You know? That has helped me in every aspect of my life.
(KK): All of that hustle has paid off. The banana bread is now sold in over forty coffee shops, climbing gyms, and stores in the greater New York City area. Caitlin created a product that people love and a company that gives back to a community that has supported her these past two years. DANK sponsors initiatives such as the New York City Adventure Film Festival, Adaptive Climbing Group, Gunks Apps, Project Girl, and more. DANK may have started as collateral for rides to the Gunks, but it’s grown to be much more than that. It’s a community. It’s a lifestyle product. It’s vegan.
(CM): We sell to thirty-five places in mostly Brooklyn and Manhattan now, but there is the Cliffs in Queens, which is awesome—love those guys! And yeah, I mean it started out just walking around and going to coffee shops and giving samples and talking to people. And it’s definitely growing all the time. Two of our newest spots are Brooklyn Roasting Company—five of their shops have the bread and The Elk in West Village just picked it up. But we have places like all the Little Skips stores in Bushwick. They’ve been around forever and the owners are amazing. They have a real family for their team, and a lot of my shops are like that—where people work there for years. Most of the time, a good metric for me, if I think the space will do well or not, is if it’s a place I genuinely just enjoy being in. If it’s a spot where I would hang out and do some work or meet up with a friend for coffee or just go there on my lunch break ‘cause it’s nice to get out of the office for a minute and be in a good space. That’s where I sell to.
Yeah, we’ve been in business since—I started the company in January 2016. The first week of sales was the first week of March in 2016. And our first account, Yours Truly: I cold called them on the very first day I did sales. And actually, the owner, Fabrizio—I introduced him to climbing and he loves it—a lot! So, (laughs) that’s been super cool. I am actually going to do a day where I reach out to my stores and see if people are interested to start climbing, ‘cause I’ve gotten a lot of questions about it from places that I sell to and people are really interested. One of my bakers wanted to come for sure, one of the managers at Happy Bones is gonna come, and I just talked to one of the managers at Sey Coffee in Bushwick and he’s interested, too. And so, I’m gonna put out a couple dates where people can come and then I can show them how it works. So, it’s been really cool that there’s been both ways. The climbing community has been ridiculously supportive of me the entire time. It’s been so cool.
(KK): We love you.
(CM): Aww! Thank you! (laughs). But like, yeah. It’s really cool to see the other side of it now, ‘cause I do have, now, a community in the food industry. It’s so cool that I get to be a part of the New York City coffee scene because I just think there’s so many genuinely creative, interesting, hardworking, and driven people in that field. So, the fact that they’re kind of getting interested in climbing has been really cool.
I’ve lived in Brooklyn since I was eighteen, so I grew up as an adult in the city and I didn’t start climbing until 2011. So, it’s really funny because when we were climbing at Brooklyn Boulders and everyone was learning and people started going outside and kind of figuring it out—like, we are the babies of the climbing scene. Because other cities, this is just what you do: everybody trad climbs, everybody’s really good at it. There’s probably just, like, the level gets ratcheted up. But, the cool thing about the New York community is that I feel like there was a second wave of it around 2010, 2011. It’s super interesting to see how it’s developed because even things like all the new gyms opening up, it’s super interesting. It’s becoming a much more widespread thing. It’s really not that much counter-culture anymore. It wasn’t even when I started, I mean, I’m not kidding myself. It’s not like it’s the seventies or even earlier or whatever. Those people were so hard (laughs) you know?
But I think that the community on a personal level is really special. I always assumed if I moved somewhere else, that climbing would be the in: that’s how you meet people, that’s how you make friends. And I know people that have moved to, you know, Colorado, to Vancouver, to California and they just say it’s not the same thing. I do think New York is a transient place. Not that many people are really from there and so people are just more open to making friends, meeting people, doing different things. And then, when you take that tier of people in that community that are adventurous and like to take risks and learn new things, it is a really special group of people. So yeah, I mean, they’ve been there for me from the beginning—like the gyms that I sell to: Brooklyn Boulders and The Cliffs, friends at GP81 opening up their new gyms. It’s really cool to see how it’s progressed over such a short amount of time.
You know, it’s cool that it’s accessible. I love climbing. I love showing people climbing. I love bringing people outdoors for the first time or putting them on their first lead, which I’ve gotten to do a couple of times. And that’s always really cool just to see people learning it. I think it’s such a valuable skillset because if you get to the point where you are climbing outside and leading, especially trad, there’s this level of care and consideration that you have to take with doing things the proper way. I feel like a lot of times, especially within certain age brackets nowadays, there’s not ever a real sense of consequence with anything because you can undo so many things, you can change so many things. I just think that making a decision and having to really stand behind it and be like, “I did this the right way. I’m positive of it. Because if I didn’t, something bad’s gonna happen.” You know, climbing teaches you that, which there’s not that much else in day-to-day normal modern life that will do that.
(KK): A few years ago, I was really struggling with my writing career. I remember calling Caitlin up—and I feel like I’m always calling her when I’m having a crisis or a business question. And she told me that there was a shift once she was able to start identifying herself as a baker. And that carried a lot of weight for me. I stopped thinking of myself as a two-bit hack wannabe, and you know what? She was right. I was a writer as much as I was a climber, as much as she was a baker.
(CM): Yeah, you don’t have to really care what other people see you as. I mean, even other people, which is funny, saw me as being a baker ‘cause I own a baking company—that seems logical. But, any time I had thought about my career now being in food service, it would just stress me out ‘cause I just don’t know that the way that I knew designing. I worked in that industry for ten years. I knew a lot about that field and I knew nothing about my new field, so.
I hope my mom’s not listening to this (laughs). So, this is probably two summers ago and it was such a really difficult time because I had come into working for DANK full-time. I had this awesome girl, Camille who, that was my first hire, who basically had been doing the baking for me while I went back to work during the day. ‘Cause at the time, we were baking between 2:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., three nights a week. So, you can imagine just how that throws your entire life off. And at the beginning, when you have no resources and no money, everything’s hard because you just have to be super scrappy and just do most of it yourself. So, that’s where I was at and Camille got another job which was super great for her, but she had to stop baking. And so, I had a meeting with my financial advisor and was just like, “Is it ok if do this right now? Is this a good idea?”
On top of all of this, I have no money. Like, I’m paying myself a hundred dollars a week. Like, I can’t go out to a bar and buy a single beer with friends. So, one of my girlfriends is having a bachelorette party and luckily, it was in the city. But they still had this whole itinerary of different things that they wanted to do—and all of it cost money. You know, you can explain to people that you’re broke, but even if they’re your best friends, unless you’ve kind of been there recently, it’s hard to remember what it’s like and I was totally there myself when I left Nautica. I mean, that’s why—I would have quit that company minimum two years earlier, but you get comfortable with the money and it’s hard to picture cutting back. And I had cut back so hard that people my age with careers had a hard time really understanding what I meant when I was like, “I’m broke.” It’s not like, “Oh, I’m broke till I get paid next week.” It’s like, “I actually don’t have money right now.” (laughs).
So, at one point in the daytime—I don’t who started talking about doing mushrooms, but people decided that they wanted to do that. We get some. And the part of the night that I was going to do was this cruise thing. It was like a—you get on a boat. There’s a dinner component to it. It was like eighty bucks and the food was horrible—and, you know, that’s what I pay myself in a week. That was a really hard blow. Then, we spend a million hours running around Greenpoint trying to find a bar to go to. I pay the six bucks it costs to get a beer—
(cash register opening)
—which—again, this is literally knife in the heart every time I have to exchange money that night. And then, the minute I get a beer, everyone decides that they don’t feel like being there anymore.
(murmuring crowd at bar and background music playing)
Even while we’re at the bar—at the time, I’m single and this guy is chatting with me and he asks if I’m a teacher and I’m like, “No, why? Are you a teacher?” And he was like, “No, you just look like a teacher.” And I’m like—
—“That’s not a compliment! Like, what the fuck is going on with this night?” I was just over it. I was over everybody. I was just so filled with anxiety, stressed, and whatever. So, my girlfriends leave and they were all going to go to one of their houses, but I was like, “I need to just go home.” I’m like kind of over everything right now.” And so, I call a cab—
(cash register opening)
—of course, more money. There you go. And when I get into the cab, I start to trip a little bit.
Ok, I’m like, “These mushrooms better kick in because something needs to happen tonight. Like, something interesting just needs to—whatever.’” (laughs). So then, I get out of the cab at my house and because I’m tripping I look at my apartment door—almost don’t recognize it because it’s so ugly and dirty looking and just horrible and I’m like, “Is this where I live?” And I walk into my house and the hallways are so scuffed and terrible and I’m just like, “Oh my god. I live in a shithole. I have no money. I can’t even afford to go out with my friends for one night. Like, what the fuck. I’m working at night. Like, what is wrong with my life right now?” And I’m in my apartment—same thing—everything just looks hideous and I just can’t deal with where I’m at in life (laughs).
And so, then, I just take a shower because I’m like, “You know what. I’m just gonna take a shower and hopefully, things will feel better.” And while I was in the shower, it started to feel a little better. I don’t know, just things kind of seemed more positive and the bathroom’s kind of steamy. And it’s so weird because in my memory, I come out of the shower and it’s all steamy and everything’s really clean and sterile, but in a comforting way, like in a 1950’s hospital where things are still homey looking but it’s very clean. It’s not like how hospitals are now. It just felt like—ok. I kind of realized that if I just kept working, like if I just put my head down and I just kept working so hard, I’d be able to work my way out of the situation. That was the first thing. And then, the second thing is because everything was all clean and white—ok, my bathroom’s not white by the way, it’s teal. So, I don’t know where the whiteness came in (laughs).
Everything was so clean and nice feeling that I had this feeling of being reborn into this role and for the first time, I’m like, “I am a baker. I just need to become a baker.” (laughs) and I go to lay down and it’s really getting late and then, after a second the money part just starts weighing on me again. And I spent the next five hours awake in my bed doing calculations on my phone calculator of whether or not I’d be able to make ends meet (laughs). So, it kind of took another turn, but it was genuinely productive. I don’t think I need to be endorsing everyone to go to drugs or anything, but it was just a genuinely productive time and it kind of just did shift my headspace a little bit about it. It wasn’t any easier or I had any more money the next day, but we did work out of it.
I still say “we” every time I talk to someone because I’m making people think it’s not just one person doing all this stuff. And now, I pay my bills, I pay my rent, I pay my insurance, I pay my employees, all the payroll taxes, workers comp insurance on that, rented the kitchen, storage. That’s all from the company. Like, all of it. That was the switch, which is kind of funny ‘cause I probably shouldn’t even be telling this in a public setting, but whatever.
(KK): I’m not cutting this.
(CM): That’s ok (laughs).
(KK): All deaths have the capacity to shatter us, to shatter our worldview. Caitlin didn’t let the incident in the Gunks shatter her, though. Instead, she took one big moment in her life and let it be part of this catalyst of change for her, and in a lot of ways, become a part of her. Caitlin had a choice—she could stay at a corporate job in fashion or give DANK her all. She thought of herself in twenty years saying, “Remember that time I owned a banana bread company…?” and it just seemed like the more interesting path to take.
(CM): You know, I really still look at every day as if, you know, anything can happen at any time. In two weeks, I could be dead. I don’t know. It’s not like I walk around with a shadow over my head or I’m freaked out by it at all. But, when it comes time to making certain decisions, I mostly will just be like, “Yo, let’s do it. Let’s go for it—because why not?” I think a lot of the fear that came with messing up or things not working out went away because I saw what happens when you don’t get a chance—when you always think, “Oh, maybe I’ll do it later.” and then later doesn’t exist. So, why not just do it now? Being able to just be like, “Yeah. Let’s try it.” I think I’d be happier to try and not make it than to just wonder if it would have worked forever.
(KK): It can be difficult to pick up the phone and ask for help, but calling a PTSD hotline number is always free and confidential. If you or someone you know is dealing with a traumatic incident, consider speaking with someone about the treatment options available. If you experience suicidal thoughts during a PTSD episode and don’t know who to talk to, call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. That’s 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.
– Even though I still have no idea what I’m doing—things are happening. And if you’d like to help out and support this podcast, please check out patreon.com (that’s P-A-T-R-E-O-N) where you can sponsor us for as little as $1 per episode. It really helps keep this podcast going, and I’m so grateful for all of your help. Special shout out to Cameron MacAlpine because he makes this thing sound good. And a big thank you to everybody who knows how to speak another language. You are infinitely cooler than I am—I gotta get Rosetta Stone.
– You’re listening to For the Love of Climbing Podcast. A huge thank you to Deuter, one of the leading backpack brands that will help you hit the trails with confidence and comfort, and a big thank you to Gnarly Nutrition for supporting this podcast and the messages that we share. Gnarly Nutrition supports a community of vulnerability and equality—and tastes like a milkshake, without all the crap. And a big shout out to Roaming Ingenuity, a team of outdoor enthusiasts and tinkerers based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Support companies who support this podcast—we couldn’t do it without them. If you liked what you heard, you can leave a review on iTunes or give us a like—like all good things, you can find us on the internet. Until next time.