Caleb was clearly bummed. We had just finished looking at the ABS (American Bouldering Series) divisional championship results. The top four would advance to Nationals. Caleb had finished sixth. “Sorry man,” I said. “You climbed well. Next year for sure!”
“Not me,” Caleb replied. “Addison! He only got 5th! He is such a better climber than most of us. He was just having a bad day. I’m so mad he didn’t qualify for Nationals!”
I think that is when I finally began to understand what climbing meant to my son, Caleb. Caleb was extremely competitive. An Eagle Scout, High School Letter in Soccer, voted ‘most tenacious’ on his freshman wrestling team, a 4.0 student in a College Prep School and one of the hardest working and most focussed climbers I had ever known. He was one of those guys that thrived in the pressure of competition. And yet, to Caleb, climbing wasn’t about beating other people, it was about pushing your own limits and celebrating those who did the same.
And so he was upset, not at his standings, but at the circumstances that affected a fellow climber’s results.
To Caleb, climbing was the ultimate exercise in finding out what one really had inside of them. I think that was why he could be just as excited about a brand new climber finishing the easiest route in the building as he was about some pro-climber getting a first assent. He understood that both had to give it all they had to experience their own success.
Today, June 30, 2016, Caleb would have turned 23 years old. I can’t help but imagine where he may have been in his climbing career or what he would think of Bliss Bouldering and Climbing Complex. As many of you know, Caleb fought a long battle with depression, and fought with the same bull doggedness that he climbed, but in the end, it was just too much him and he took his life on August 22, 2012.
I had often dreamt of opening a climbing gym with Caleb someday. The night he took his life, he posted a song by Linkin Park on his FaceBook page: Leave out all the rest. Part of the lyrics read:
When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed
And don’t resent me
And when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest
Thus cemented my resolve to build an indoor rock climbing gym that Caleb would be proud of. One that would bring out the best in each of us and that would introduce many others to the sport that so impacted Caleb’s life. One that would carry on his memory and offer others similar memories to those I have with him. And most importantly, one that encourages everyone to push their limits and discover that they too can do anything that they put their minds to.
Caleb’s mantra was ‘Follow Your Bliss’. Just fitting in, being average, and conforming to the masses was never his style. Our suspicion here at Bliss is that it is not your style either. It’s why we are here.
Climb hard and Follow Your Bliss,
PS: If you’re interested, here is a video my son Josiah did for Caleb’s funeral, set to that Linkin Park song. I think it does a great job chronicling his life.