Saturday, The Climbing Academy said a tear-filled goodbye to its first graduating class. In this blog post, TCA seniors Jonah and Sean and sophomores Liv and Emma reflect on the first year of TCA and ask themselves the question, “Where will I be in four years?”
Currently, I find myself 8,000 feet up in elevation leaning up against the beautiful limestone walls of Mt. Charleston, Nevada. Fluffy clouds and bright green pine trees surround me, adding a wintery smell to the air, quite off-putting for the middle of April.
I eat the quesadilla I made while packing up at the house this morning in Las Vegas, with a liberal amount of Sriracha piled on top of the melted cheese. My water bottle sits next to me, a white Hydroflask plastered with stickers and sizable dents from the year. A grey “Wyoming as folk” sticker is underneath a Bishop sticker in funky block lettering, a Butora sticker up against one large sticker with “The Climbing Academy” written on top of a globe.
I look up and see the swift movement of Jonah’s legs on the overhanging wall, casually throwing a heel hook above his head. Slowly, I stand up and stretch my arms above my head, my puffy coat rising. Kieran belays from down below, occasionally calling beta for Screaming Target, 5.13c. Things are great here in La La Land, where climbing is necessary for survival, I’m learning new things every day, and life is good.
Where will I be in 4 years? I don’t even know where I’ll be six months from now. Will I be in college somewhere in the West, like I hope to be now? Where will I be? Four years from now, I could be studying in a dorm room in Bend, I could be climbing in the Utah desert, or I could be waking up in Atlanta. Or maybe, I’ll be somewhere else entirely. There’s absolutely no way to know, and that’s the beauty of time.
A lot of my closest friends are seniors this year, and recently I’ve found myself wishing to be graduating as well, even though I’m having the best time of my life. I can’t wait to be on my own studying something I’m excited to learn about, in a new city, meeting new people. That’s why TCA appeals to me so very much, because I get the chance to do just that much sooner than most people do, if ever.
Even though I would like to be graduating, I’m not, and the only thing that I do know for sure is where I’d like to be in four years. I want to be somewhere where the humidity never gets above 50% and there’s lots of snow in the winter, and plenty of climbing nearby. I want to be studying something I absolutely love at a school that I enjoy.
And that’s what I’ll strive to do, but who knows? That’s only what I want right now, and a lot can happen in four years. As B always says to me when I’m stressed about the future, change is the only constant in life, so I might as well have fun in the meantime.
Las Vegas was a culture shock after spending nine weeks in El Potrero Chico and El Salto, Mexico. The climbing at Mount Charleston, Nevada, is extremely different and unique to anything I have climbed on, and especially from the last quarter. Charleston has a history of chipping and drilling holds, which made this one of the most popular crags in America in the 1990s. The style requires powerful movements and tendon strain.
After one week of projecting here, I’ve learned to enjoy these steep glossy climbs. They have taught me and the group a different way to fight gravity. Being that the end of the school year is just around the corner, we haven’t concerned the climbing aspect as much as previous quarters. Primarily the cognitive strain has been pinned down to academics and the health of the TCA family. The last quarter of semesters has always been the hardest for the group; our anxious minds have a difficult time living in the moment. I think we can all feel the tension; the build-up to the end gets to you emotionally and physically.
The truth is, I’ve never had closer and more important people in my life until now. I know I can be irritated easily with the fifteen people that surround me every day, but the day I get home I know I’m going to miss every second of TCA. We’re family. We travel all over the world, sleep in the same small house, eat three meals a day together, help each other with homework, get in fights, and resolve our arguments. We rock climb four days a week together!
Four years from now, the goal is to be on the final push of graduating from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. I will be almost 23 years old. I imagine there will be very difficult times going to a university and giving up a lot of time to put into school, but I also see it being some of the best years in my life. I’ll be making new friends from all over and pushing my climbing abilities to new levels in all different forms. I want to be able to trad climb, ice climb, and continue to push myself in bouldering and sport climbing. In four years, the TCA family will still be there for me. They’ve seen me through my hardest times in my life and picked me back up. I’ll be connecting with them.
Where would I be if I weren’t here right now? Would I be sitting in a plastic chair in front of a white board with a class of 30 or 40? I wouldn’t be sitting on a crash pad in front of the koi fish pond with a class filled with my favorite people in the world.
So, as I sit and wonder the question I always end up wondering, I soak in the whole day. Waking up at 6:30 to the shushes and the “be quiet” comments of Riley and Julia to go on a run with Liv. Coming back at 6:50 and reading a relaxing book until a warm and homemade meal is set out. The room slowly fills with noise as groggy kids file down the stairs and into the loud, ricocheting room downstairs.
And as we start to devour the breakfast full of veggies and other delicious food, the classes begin to morph. The classes of mathematics organize into their roller coaster seats as they wait to have their brains racked and jumbled. Onto the next class. English calms the scene that math set. The occasional straggler meanders about the kitchen in search of a mid-class snack.
Lunch breezes by, and everyone creates their free time before the next stretch of classes begins. History ambles by, and the whole school comes into the living room for media productions. And as we work, we wait.
We wait to go out to a new place we’ve never been before. Our workout will be at Red Rocks as we distance ourselves from the city. The dusty, old white vans wind down the highway, getting farther from the little cozy house. Farther from the lights of the Vegas city. Farther from our familiar area and a little closer to an unknown. Closer to something we’ve never seen before, but something we’ll never forget.
Where am I four years from now? It was just yesterday that I left Colorado. My drive to the valley was long, and my van is beginning to smell the way it smells when something amazing is coming. Something filled with adventure, some mystery, and a bit of unrefrigerated food I forgot about in my pack. I’ve traveled to almost everywhere I’ve wanted to go, and this is my last destination. The one place I’ve always wanted to go. It’s where my parents met and where my journey through this crazy life began. This valley gave birth to the pioneers of climbing and has hosted some of the greatest ventures in the climbing history. Yosemite Valley.
I’ve dreamt of climbing here ever since my parents started telling me stories about the greatest places I can think of. Even greater than life itself. I’ve traveled all summer, fresh out of my second year of college. Visiting all the places I’ve ever wanted to go. Climbing new and exotic rock. Leaving this one destination for last…
I’ve felt ready to move on from where I am since I got to my sophomore year of high school, but I never wanted to do something about it till junior year, when I was contemplating dropping out. I was so miserable and felt so bad all the time in high school, like I was just being held back from doing what actually matters in this world.
Right now, however, being at TCA has taught me you don’t always get the fun parts of life or the parts you feel are important all the time. I do feel ready still to go and move on. I’ve been accepted to a college that I think will set me up for great times to come and a place that I fit to carve a niche out for myself in this life. Right now I feel that my climbing is starting to open up more and become an exponential growth pattern. Right now I feel as though my passions can finally intertwine with school and academics.
It’s a strange thing, reflecting back on where I’ve been and where I am, and I feel as though things are never going to be the same. I’ve had a dynamic life so far, so why should I submit to common job types or systems that hinder my climbing and travel?
Four years is a ridiculously long time if you really think about all that happens in a year, and all the things you can’t do in a single year because so much happens. I think in four years I will either be doing amazing things with climbing, or trying at least, and starting entrepreneurship in business with climbing.
Realistically I might be dead, from falling, a car crash, drowning, whatever — there’s so much that happens in a year, so thinking about four, well, I might as well think about the things that are natural for humans. You know, someone’s bound to die in a year, so who am I not to acknowledge it — especially with all the dangerous things I’m into.
What I am certain of, however, and confident in, is that I will be living as if I were dead already, making my life what I want, doing what I want, and loving those important moments — those moments when you know you’re meant to be doing that thing you’re good at.