I am sitting on the airplane, heading to Reno for the grand opening of the world’s tallest climbing wall. It was built by Entre Prises on the side of this new hotel in the middle of the city. I’m going to climb it and my good friend Boone Speed is going to take photos. Bizarre, huh?
The “V15” bar.
While sitting here, on the plane, I can’t stop thinking about this route that I want to send in Rifle. It’s really hard for me, and I desperately want to do it. I keep falling though, and it’s making me feel anxious. Yesterday, Sam told me to stop worrying about doing it, that it’s not about sending; it’s about the process. My focus should not be success, but climbing well and enjoying the route while I still have it to climb on. This is good advice, but it’s hard to follow.
Me on my project
The two guys sitting beside me are talking. One of them is a learjet pilot from Nebraska. He’s going to Reno for his little sister’s birthday party. The other guy is going because he does something with sheep. Something to do with getting them to a water source, I think. He keeps refering to it as “the project”; like “I’m camping out at the project site tomorrow night” and “I’ll put work clothes on and actually help build the project.” I don’t understand, but I don’t want to ask him about it. I don’t like to engage strangers on airplanes, I always feel awkward and like I have to keep talking to them when I would rather read or listen to music. Instead, I prefer to eavesdrop. Listening to the conversation next to me helps take my mind off of my ridiculous obsession with a sport climb in Rifle.
I glance down at my hands, folded neatly in my lap, in an effort to feign minding my own business. I see my tattoo on the inside of my right forearm, and it catches me offguard. It has been almost a year since I had it done, but it surprises me sometimes to see it. Not in a bad way, more like I’m still getting used to it being a part of me. It’s a tree – a Hindi calligraphy design of a tree. There’s two characters from the Hindi alphabet in the middle of it, and birds flying around the perimeter of the design. I really like it. I like everything about it, even the fact that I don’t know what the exact Hindi letters are. One of them looks like an “e”, which is my first initial. I like that too.
Some people get tattoos out of impulse. Some do it after thinking it over for years and finally deciding on a design they like. Others just talk about getting one but never do because they don’t want to regret it when they’re older. I don’t think I fall into any of these categories. I have always wanted a tattoo (one of a tree, in fact) but in the same way that I’ve always wanted to go skydiving. I’d do it, if the opportunity presented itself, but if it never came up, I wouldn’t pursue it much further.
The time seemed right in Banff, Canada last year, and I went ahead with it. I almost bailed, worried that my friends and family would think it was distasteful and trashy. After mulling it over though, I chose to forget those concerns and just do it, because I wanted to. I don’t do that very often, and I’m glad I did it with something so permanent. It’s a reminder, to trust myself and make my own path, even when others tell me that it’s not the right way.
I am curious if the stranger next to me is following his path; if he actually wants to live in Nebraska and be a learjet pilot. I certainly wouldn’t want to, but I decide that he does, based on the fact that he seems so eager to talk about it. He also mentioned that he likes the weather in Nebraska, “MUCH better than Oklahoma,” he says to the sheep guy. I wonder to myself, in an admitedly presumptuous and elitist way, if he’s ever spent time in Colorado.
There’s this quote I’ve always loved that I think fits nicely with all of this: “Do not accept unwanted advice, write your own story.” Learjet guy doesn’t care that I think Nebraska is flat and boring. He seems psyched to be living there, stoked on the good weather and to be able fly learjets for a living. I’d like to think he’s happy doing what he’s doing, even though he’s a total stranger and I really have no solid evidence to form such opinions. Being a learjet pilot sounds badass, right? Even if you do have to live in Nebraska. I hope he’s writing his own story, and I’m trying to write mine. And that’s all that should matter, even if I never end up sending my project – which I can’t help but be really hopeful that I can. Someday, at least.