Why Do We Wait to Do the Things We Say Matter the Most?

by ERIK ORTON on NOVEMBER 16, 2016

Why do we wait to do the things we say matter the most? 

I’m trying to figure that out.  I’m sitting in the lodge at Half Dome Village.  I’ve dreamed of coming to Yosemite Valley since I was a teenager.  I came close once in high school.  I actually flew out to Utah, met up with some buddies and we drove through Nevada and up to California.  I was the second youngest climber in the bunch, a junior in high school, so I wasn’t planning the trip.  Turned out we ended up climbing in the highlands of the park (Tuolumne Meadows), where it was cooler and less crowded.  We didn’t go down into the Valley, the land of the big walls.  Even so, it was the best rock climbing of my life, and I promised myself I’d come back and climb in the Valley.   Twenty five years later I’m here.  Why did it take so long?  Again, I’m trying to figure that out.

After high school I went to college.  I served a mission.  I got married.  We had five kids.  Our oldest is now in college.  And my second oldest, Alison (17), is here with me as my climbing partner.  She is the same age I was, when I came so close to first visiting Yosemite Valley.  As I was telling the little kids where I was going, I showed them a map with a line between NY and CA.  Jane (14) realized Yosemite was in the U.S.  “Wait, it’s in our country, and you haven’t gone already?!”  She seemed disappointed.  I felt duly chastened.  Why hadn’t I?

Alison and I have talked about this a bit during our days of climbing.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • I felt like I wasn’t prepared.  When I came, I wanted to be a great climber.  I wanted to be at my peak.  The more time passed, the more I lost my physical conditioning and my skills waned.  My confidence went with it.
  • I didn’t have enough of the right gear.  Climbing in Yosemite is big.  The larger routes are 3,000 feet tall.  Yes, that’s a mile and change tall.  That requires the right kind of gear, and the right kind of skill.  I didn’t have it, and I wasn’t willing to commit the resources.  I was chickening out.
  • I had more important things to spend my time and money on.  I was providing for a wife and five kids, right?  I couldn’t just indulge in a pile of climbing gear and time away to pursue some selfish hobby.  Right?

In the end, I had to decide if it was important or not.  If it wasn’t, then I needed to let it go.  If it was, then I needed to get off my butt and do something.

Emily and I recently made the commitment to camp once a month as a family.  We usually go to New Paltz, so we can camp and do some rock climbing at the The Gunks.  My kids are getting the hang of climbing.  Last month, while were at The Gunks, Emily struck up a conversation with some folks at the base of the cliff.  They worked for REI and were out for a day of climbing.  After chatting, they gave her Friends and Family coupon for 25% off your total order for their upcoming event that week.  25% off EVERYTHING.  The more you buy, the more you save. 

My dear friend Julie works for an airline.  She and her family had come to visit NYC.  They stayed at our place.  As a generous thank you, she had offered me a buddy pass.  This was a year ago.  What was I waiting for?

I could gear up at a bargain rate.  I could fly affordably.   And I had the time.  I wanted to go.  Emily said, “You have to go.”  I made a decision.  I placed the order and got the gear.  Julie arranged the ticket.  But I had no one to climb with.  I asked around, but no one else had the time.  I decided to go alone.  I’d find someone to climb with once I arrived.  Then Emily suggested Alison.  Alison’s a beginner climber, but she was game.  We wouldn’t be climbing any flashy routes, but we would be doing the thing that I said was important.  I sheepishly asked Julie about a second buddy pass and the answer was an immediate yes.  Crap!  This was all coming together.  Now I had no excuses.  As my wife wisely said last week, when you dreams come true, you lose all your excuses.  All my excuses were gone.

Like I said, I’m sitting in lodge at Half Dome Village.  We’re camping in Camp 4, the legendary gathering spot of the world’s best climbers.  We sleep on the ground.  It gets cold at night.  We cook on a one burner gas stove, and we get thrashed everyday out on the rock.  I still wish I was in better shape.  I still wish my skills were better.  And I you can always have more gear.  But the fact is I’m here rock climbing in one of the worlds most beautiful locations, and I’m really glad I came.  Why did I wait so long?  Because I was afraid and I kept making excuses.  I think I need to stop doing that.