I sat down in the center of the gym, forearms pumped from the last 2.5 hours on ropes with Andy and Lee, staring up at the wall. When we started the night, I felt unsure about my strength after being sick all last week. I insisted on starting with several easy routes—and even on those—I had to come off the wall. I felt like I had taken two steps backwards with all my progress. But after spending the next hour watching them on lead and having them encourage me up more and more difficult top rope routes, I eventually sent my first 5.10c. It felt awesome.
But now, Andy and Lee were gone, and I was in the bouldering pit, staring at my project, wondering what was I still doing here? I couldn’t feel my fingers and I wasn’t sending anything. As I began to get lost in my thoughts, a group of familiar people walked directly in front of me.
Over the last few weeks we had built a comradery, exchanged contacts, and made plans to hang out. They sat down next to me—and we talked—and I would get up to climb—and then come back to talk. And this is how it went for the next half hour, until I realized, the only person climbing was me.
“Are you guys working on anything?” I asked.
“No, we just wanted to come hang out with you,” one of them said.
And I realized then that I didn’t need to climb to have these people be interested in talking to me.
So we just sat. And we talked. From running full marathons to board games to career aspirations and shows we’re watching. We talked about anything. We danced in place to the Island music playing the background. We shared videos that inspire us. We hung out until we couldn’t hang out anymore, because the gym closed.
One by one we filled the parking lot, shouting our goodbyes and planning Thursday night beers and whiskey shots. We wave and smile and when we get into our cars, we’re already thinking about messaging each other on social media.
These people are the reason why I stay—when I’m dead tired and can’t feel my fingers—they make me never want to leave the gym.