"You're not good enough!" "You're not strong enough!" "You're not in shape like you used to be!" These are all things you have probably heard while trying out climbing. For me though, these words brought me into the climbing world...
It was my birthday. Instead of it being an amazing day, it was the day I starting packing because my husband had decided to leave me. I thought my life was over. Everything I had planned for the future was gone. I was headed to Knoxville to move into my parent's basement with my two dogs until I could figure out my next move. I was not only heartbroken, but my spirit was broken as well. I wasn't good enough, pretty enough, strong enough. I did the only thing I knew to do. I went outdoors. I am an avid hiker and backpacker so I hit the trail. Along the way, I reconnected with an old friend who had gotten me into whitewater sports like kayaking and rafting. His new thing was rock climbing and I was desperate for anything to distract me. I decided to give it a try.
I remember the first few times I climbed outside. I was in a super negative 'I can't' attitude. I couldn't pull myself up, I couldn't stay on the wall, I couldn't get to the top flawlessly. Everything my ex had said to me was bleeding over into my new life and I hated myself for letting him ruin my new life. I made the decision to really try and not let him control my thoughts anymore. I started climbing every Sunday. My friend helped me and I slowly got into a better mentality. Every time I fell, I didn't look at it as a failure. I looked at it as a way to grow. To look at the problem in a new way and see how I could change some things around to make it to the next hold. I wasn't always trying to get to the top anymore. I wanted to climb clean and hit my holds one higher at a time. I slowly felt my self-confidence coming back. I felt empowered every time I put on my harness. I watched other climbers, not with envy, but with awe, trying to learn their different techniques. Being outside put me in that healing environment but climbing gave me a sense of purpose, a way to grow stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Climbing was not easy though. Not only am I afraid of heights, but I have a fear of falling as well. Go figure, right?! Learning to trust my partner, my gear, and myself; especially after all my trust was shattered; was also very difficult. Overcoming these fears became my priority. During my weekly climbs, I would have my partner keep my slack super tight so I never got that feeling of falling off the wall. I also would have him lower me annoyingly slow till I started feeling more comfortable. I slowly started working harder routes and taking more falls because of it. The cool thing was, I noticed they weren't as scary as I thought! I was beginning to trust myself in setting my gear up properly and trusting my partner to make sure I was safe to climb as well. Next thing I knew, I was barely flinching if I missed a hold and fell. I was also noticing that my partner held me with a looser rope so I was climbing more on my own. I never felt so confident in my life! I even started to lead climb super easy routes as my next personal challenge.
This is what brought me to Onsight Rock Gym. I had only climbed outside with my friend throughout the summer and with my summer job ending, I knew I needed something different. I heard about Onsight from a friend and decided to apply. When I got the job I was so nervous because I was so new at climbing. I needn't of worried! The rock climbing community turned out to be like many of the other Knoxville outdoor communities like paddling or hiking. They accept you for who you are and only try to help make you better, not make you feel belittled because of your lack of knowledge. Anyone is welcome to try, no matter their skill level or physical capabilities. I learned in leaps and bounds and have found friends with similar interests in this new life of mine. I have bettered my climbing technique while being at the gym and met so many awesome people who have started including me in their climbs. I love getting to come to Onsight whether it's to work on problems through bouldering or work on my endurance through top-roping. I still struggle, but rock climbing has taught me to be strong, to strive to reach the top, but it also taught me to work the problems and enjoy the challenges along the way. Climbing makes me feel empowered and confident in my life and in myself. Never give up, no matter how deep a hole you're in. Something will come along to get you out. Lucky for me it was a rope and harness.
Kelly Sellers Onsight Rock Gym Staff