12 in 12: Climbers Only

“Yes, I love you all, but I’m leaving you for someone else.” Before the author reignited her passionate relationship with climbing.

“Yes, I love you all, but I’m leaving you for someone else.” Before the author reignited her passionate relationship with climbing.

I can’t have non-climber friends.

“I never see you any more.” “I miss hanging out with you.” “Are you mad at me?” And the absolute worst one is when you call an old friend, it rings twice, then goes straight to voicemail. That stings a bit. I want to say to them, “It’s not that I don’t like you any more, but I’ve started seeing someone, and I want you to understand why I’m not returning your calls or making an effort to hang out with you. That someone is ‘climbing,’ and we have a very important and possibly life-changing relationship.

The transition period between single life and relationship life can be socially rough. You spend 60 percent of your free time as a single person with your other single friends, with the random couple thrown in here and there. You have other interests and hobbies and distractions when you’re not in a relationship. This is life as a single person: I’m rocking my job and kicking ass at life! I’m exercising regularly! I’m going out and being social! This is life as a relationship person: I’m hanging out with so-and-so. I’m not saying one is better or worse than the other, but it’s the honest truth.

Do the math. There are 168 hours in a week. Let’s say I work 45 hours a week (that doesn’t count deadline weeks where it easily tops 50), plus 2 hours every workday for breakfast, shower, driving, etc., equals 10 hours. Plus (hopefully) 56 hours of sleep per week. Then another 3 hours of training at the climbing gym at least four days a week, totaling 12 hours. Add in climbing on the weekends, which is an all-day affair, probably 9 hours a day for two days (18 hours). 168 minus 45 minus 10 minus 56 minus 12 minus 18 = 27.

That leaves 27 hours over seven days for preparing and eating meals, running errands, chores around the house, walking the dog, yadda, yadda, yadda, and that leaves little to no time to actually be in the presence of non-climbing friends. (Mind you, I’m not complaining. I’ve chosen this life, and it’s an awesome one.) But if you’re not my roommate, belayer, or spotter, I probably won’t see you much. The real problem comes because I’m totally fine with this, but other people are not. This is because they don’t understand.

I spoke with a fellow outdoor enthusiast recently who mentioned she had decided to become more selfish lately. Knowing her as the painfully sweet and generous person that she is, I wondered what the hell she could be talking about. She explained that in order to do the things she wanted to do (backpacking in the Grand Canyon, skiing the Canadian Rockies, the list goes on), she would have to sacrifice holiday time that was typically spent with her out-of-state family. Her biggest concern was hoping her more traditional mom would understand.

This was a revelation for me. In order to do what truly makes you happy, you gotta sacrifice something else. That something else might be great, but is it really what you want to be doing with your life? While I love catching a movie with my friend or hanging by her pool, I often spend that time thinking about the crux move on the last 11c that spit me off, or texting climbing partners to see who’s around for a quick gym session. And with this commitment to training and pushing my abilities, I have to sacrifice that time I would normally be doing other things. I just hope my more traditional friends will understand.

Will you be one of my climber friends? Email me comments and complaints at jellison@climbing.com.

Click here to read all the 12 in 12 posts.