In climbing, when you lead a route without any rests or falls the first time you try it, you earn the glorious achievement of having “onsighted” the route. You do this by preparing beforehand: getting generally more physically fit, practicing climbing, building up technique, and studying the route before getting off the ground.
Once you start to care about onsights, it can be a bit of an obsession. You don’t climb routes you know you’re not ready for because you want to save it for when you can do the onsight. You don’t watch people climb routes you haven’t onsighted because you don’t want to learn the “beta,” because if you copy what someone else has figured it it’s cheating.
And perhaps most frustratingly of all, if you start a route preparing to onsight it and take a fall, you lose motivation and momentum you built up and have trouble continuing.
This sort of happened to me on Tuesday, when my goal was to climb a 6b clean – it was more of a personal goal than something that would actually matter as a statistic, because it’s different indoors and doesn’t carry the same weight as a route on real rock. I was fine until I got to the Big Scary Overhang, felt my fingers sweat and my arms go all wobbly and called “Take!” for a rest. Once I called take that first time, hope of completing my goal of doing the route clean was lost. So I climbed up a little bit more and called take again. I could have probably finished the route with one take, but I had lost the chance at completing my goal, so to a certain extent, I gave up.
My mornings are usually solid: I get up at seven and have a structured plan to ease myself into my day in time for a lecture in town at ten. Having nothing on my calendar until eight this evening – which never ever happens, by the way – I slept in until nine. When I woke up I didn’t follow my usual routine. I did get some tasks done, but didn’t feel like doing work, so instead watched “Gossip Girl.” While for the most part my day hasn’t been too unproductive, it doesn’t feel like it’s going perfectly, and it’s that point in the afternoon in which I want to prioritize relaxation so that I can get a good start for tomorrow.
Then I figured out the problem:
I blew the onsight of today, and have therefore stopped giving it my all.
What is this obsession with perfection, start to finish? Why do I only feel accomplished when I get it right from the start? Well, when I do something right I gain emotional momentum, certainly, but it isn’t nearly as influential as the negative emotions of not gaining that momentum.
Every moment should be given the priority and significance of a new beginning – why wait for the new year, the next month, day, hour-on-the-hour to start fresh? For some reason it’s hard to start something new without the commanding strike of midnight, the freshness of a clean notebook on the first day of school. Make that start now. Not the next time the clock lands on an even number or the next time you wake up. Even though I’ve lost today’s onsight, I’m still climbing.