Learning about the early lives of my friends gives perspective. I first met Rick Miller bouldering side-by-side working problems on the same wall - always positive and just an all-around nice person, he and I became fast climbing friends. Along the way I learned some things and once again, was reminded by Rick's story here, that where you come from matters. Read on and enjoy this honest piece!
I had an odd childhood. My parents were separated on and off, and as a kid, I moved around a lot - 12 different schools in 4 states and 3 summer schools. These early experiences left me with a different view on life, or at least my own perception of Life. Growing up, I was called a "half-breed" being part Caucasian and Asian because I was half of each, and what it did was instilled in me this idea that I was already different from everyone else.
At times I found myself hiding one of my ethnicities to try and fit into a mold that was called the norm. Due to this fact and moving a lot, I never quite had the opportunities I could have let myself have in certain circumstances, particularly to play in sports. Because of my inconsistencies in grades, I wasn't eligible for sports anyway, and found that the most accepting crowd/clique in school were the artsy-goth kids. So you are who you hang with in some respects. I mostly avoided making friends so as to avoid the feeling of losing them when one moves away like I was bound to do.
After moving out on my own at 17, I found myself to be semi-reclusive and shy to the world. Somehow I managed to graduate from high school and started taking care of my mother who had colon cancer at the time, and ended up settling into a quiet social life which was nil in 1998 and beyond.
Eventually years later, 2006, I found myself desiring life, a life of my own. I wanted to connect with nature and started to hike and trail run on the trails of state parks. One of those parks happened to be Devils Lake, and it was there that I saw my first real live rock climber. I was instantly curious and fascinated and wanted to know more about this seemingly leisure activity.
At the end of the summer of 2006, I was 26, and found myself at a location in the Dells called Vertical Illusions. It gave rock climbing courses so I didn't hesitate to sign up and learn more about not just the activity, but also myself and my fears and ability to reflect and problem solve issues. Like most climbers, I started top roping outside which led to easy climbing to hard leads, evolving into sport climbing and then bouldering - the last discipline of the sport for me. I found myself in various places I would not normally find myself: Hueco, Bishop, Yosemite . . . All helped me gain what felt like a positive foothold on life being surrounded by positive challenges.
By 2007, I was told by a friend about an indoor climbing gym in Madison, WI. And it was there at Boulders Climbing Gym where my life changed. Not just because of the great route setting, but because of the beautifully diverse and open people. It was unlike any other sport I previously tried, those that were always around an alpha male or an ego or points or teams of division where someone got picked last. Here everyone bonded, everyone smiled, and everyone was noticed.
My life has been deeply enriched through positive people pushing my mental and physical limits to achieve what is considered and labeled a "problem," and to find the most efficient way to solve it. I became a closet athlete. I began to run more, and run longer. I bought a 12 station workout machine for my spare bedroom, lifted weights, did core training, and climbed in the gym 6 hours a day for 5 days a week. Even with all this I still could only boulder V3's, my plateau and arch nemesis. I found myself stumbling time after time to break that grade and remained unsuccessful until I met a few wonderful women who I watched to understand form vs. power, finesse over brawn, a mental tenacity to listen to the body not just the mind. These two ladies, Vera Naputi and Anne Hughes, inspired me to discover a new form set for climbing and were openly friendly to anyone regardless of strength. I felt accepted for once, something that hadn't occurred for me in a long time, being surrounded by people who would eventually introduce me to more great people.
Eventually because of these great people, I broke through and climbed a V4, but more importantly, these wonderful people helped me break through my shy self. From 2007 to 2012, I've had my ups and downs with climbing, progressing through training and dietary lifestyle vs. laziness and Krispy Cremes or having a 40 hour week job. Having climbed 13c and V11, I'm now on a hiatus from climbing. I'm unable to climb a V4 or a 10d. And I wonder if all that training was wasted.
But I find myself without regrets, because there's an epiphany in all of this - that it was the people around me who made life more enjoyable, not necessarily the short lived feeling of a send, but a sense of unity. I no longer climb these days and have reverted back into a life I used to have before this, but what little time I spent in that community, whether they were considered a great climber or not, still were rainbows in my skies.
On a side note, I'm an only child who didn't meet my cousins until my late teens. I have only met one set of my grandparents. My Asian grandfather was unfortunately taken and shot, then killed in front of my grandmother and her kids (my mother was probably 3 or 4 years old), during the Korean War. So my mother grew up without a proper education which made for awkward table manners :). I guess that's why it was always hard to make friends.
[Not so at Boulders Climbing Gym, where in my opinion, Rick goes down as one of the nicest guys there . . . ]