28 December 2013

The Art of Feeling Stuck

Here I am in one of the most beautiful, famous climbing areas in the world, Fontainebleau, France, and I don't even want to go climbing. What is wrong with me?
I can't shake the feeling that I want to be somewhere else. Actually I've felt this way for the last twelve months.
I feel stuck.
Why do I feel like I'm wasting time? Precious time. I'm not going to be twenty-four forever. What am I doing in all these places when I know I want to be somewhere else?

I think a lot of it had to do with me signing a lease, my first paid-for home base since 2009. That was the beginning of me feeling stuck. It felt nice to have a bedroom, and a kitchen, but no matter where I wanted to go, I never felt like I could go for long. I always felt like I had to return at around the six week mark, because why would you pay for a place to live if you weren't actually going to live in it?
This most definitely, absolutely, does NOT mean that I want to live the #TrailerLife for the rest of eternity. No, I definitely want a place somewhere. But this time, geographically, I think I'm going to make a better choice. But I have some things to do first.

I lost myself a little bit this year, as a climber and as a person. I wanted to do a climb, and it wasn't the right time, I had to wait for winter. I couldn't go, but I didn't want to stay. My relationship to climbing changed. It wasn't fun anymore, it was a chore. So I didn't climb much over the summer, and I sort of let myself go. When fall came and I decided I loved climbing again and it was time to get back in shape, I was kinda chubby (for climbing standards. And me standards.) I had a hard time getting back in shape. But my focus was stemming from thoughts of my project, and I worked hard, knowing I to need to be the strongest I've ever been to do this climb. I completed seven weeks of a nine-week training program, and felt like me again! But I still wasn't heading in the right direction. I went the opposite way, first to the Southeast. It's almost like I'm running from it; I'm intimidated by it. So I did the ultimate flee and left the country.

I'm not saying I haven't appreciated my time in Europe, of course I have. It's just felt more like... killing time. The entire last year, no matter where I've been, I've felt like I was just killing time, desperately wishing I could be working this climb, but it wasn't the right season. I haven't been able to try my hardest, or start any other serious projects, because my heart has  been elsewhere, on a project farther away.

I got this idea in my head that I wanted to do a boulder, and since this idea's conception, I've only been distracted by it. It sounds like the ultimate cliche, I know, but I've become obsessed. It's all I think about, and I regularly dream about it. None of the climbing areas I've been to in the last eight months have been fulfilling. Of course it's been fun! And I've climbed a lot of incredible lines, and even done some hard things. I just can't focus on anything.

The scariest part about it all is now people know about it. I have been vocal about wanting to work on this climb, I've told people and sponsors. Me, I have put all this extra pressure on myself to succeed.

What if I fail?
Trust me, I'm the first one to admit that climbing is 90% failure. I mean look at KJ and TC, five years in on The Dawn Wall, and Angie three years in on Freaks. It's called projecting for a reason! Who cares if I spend months working it and don't do it?
But this one is different. It's become less about disappointing myself. Now there are other people, and companies involved. I need to do it for me. I want to do it for them.
If nobody knew I was working on it, nobody would know if I couldn't do it. But now if I fail, people will know. And that scares the shit out of me.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I've been feeling trapped.

I want to do this climb and I'm afraid to fail.

The thing I want to do the most I'm running away from.

I come home from Europe in a week and head straight out to this project. I feel this need to be there, working on it, but I'm also very intimidated. I guess we'll see what happens.

Welcome to the art of feeling stuck.


  1. Thanks for sharing Alex. Stay strong be positive and you will accomplish amazing things in 2014 :-)

  2. Insofar as I judge pro climbers for their ability (and who cares what I think anyway - I'm just some random dude), I tend to be impressed by the things that they do, not the things that they cannot do.
    When a strong climber can't do a boulder, that doesn't tend to say anything to me about the climber. If it says anything at all, it says something about the climb. So yeah, Mr. Woods was just as impressive to me after not doing Gioia. What changed was that Gioia was that much more impressive. If he couldn't do it, it must be Hard.
    The other thing is reminds me of, which always helps after a long day of bouldering is that thing that Fred Nicole said a few years ago: 'all boulderers who are pushing themselves leave a large portion of attempted climbs unfinished behind them'.
    By now, we know what you can do, and if you can't do something, it must be HARD.

  3. I know the artform of being stuck better than most. It takes years of hard work to refine...one year ain't so long, Buttercup. It's those stuck years, I think, that actually promote the most growth. It's those stuck years that make us human. Use this trip as a reminder of what you want and don't want in your life. Life for some is a yellow brick path, but for the rest of us, it's a meandering motherfucker and it sometimes doesn't seem to make much sense, but even that summer of drinking too much will contribute somehow to who you are as a person. Lessons learned, friends made, etc. I know this trip has been many things, and not always fun, but I'll always remember that day in Nivo Bassa, just the two of us, dry humping the air and dancing like idiots to warm up and laughing like nothing else mattered.

    Love you more than anything. Go crush that project. I hope I get to be there to see it, but I'll be there with you regardless. *sentimental barf*