Falling Behind

I’ve been scaling walls on and off since 2015. My preferred form of climbing is bouldering, and in January of 2022, I decided to take it seriously. I purchased a six-month membership to the bouldering gym nearest to my place and began hitting it three times a week.

I became acquainted with some of the regulars. The excitement of seeing them, working on a problem together, and learning from each other had me looking forward to each session. In an effort to accelerate my progress — which was already going steady — I hired a climbing coach.

The routes in my gym are graded with dots numbered 1 to 10, and when I hired my coach, I was confidently scaling 5-dot problems and a couple of 6s. The thrill of sending my first 7-dot came barely a month into my training.

In March, I fell. The story is too silly and uninteresting for me to relate here, but the outcome left me in far too much pain to climb.

After my injury, my days consisted of pain meds and muscle relaxants. I got X-rays and MRIs. I became too familiar with my chiropractor and physiotherapist. Some days I woke up feeling almost normal, and other days felt like the day after my injury.

My entire conception of what my body is — and my relationship with it — changed, and for the first time, I became painfully aware of its limitations.

September was when I finally felt ready enough to return to the gym, but by then my membership had long since expired. I had forgotten to pause it when I got injured because I thought I would only be out for a couple of weeks — at most. It wouldn’t have made sense to buy another six-month membership at the time because I wasn’t sure my body could handle climbing twice a week, let alone three.

And of course because I could not climb twice a week, I ended up not climbing at all. The burden of spending money each time I wanted to climb, coupled with the pain of watching my friends — who I used to tackle problems with — now crushing much bigger routes, was too much to overcome.

In my first few years in KL, I swung around with a Lindy group, and every Friday night in Bangsar, we danced the night away.

At some point, the weekly socials moved from Telawi — which was walking distance from my old apartment — to somewhere in SS2, which was at least a 15-minute drive, and I found myself attending less and less. And when I did show up, I’d see my classmates executing moves with finesse that left me in awe. I became too self-conscious to dance in front of them, because I was convinced they’d judge my every misstep. So I danced even less, and inevitably, I got worse.

Years later, I came across a poster on Instagram for a Lindy class, and the instructors were some of the same dancers I used to swing with in Bangsar.

“That should have been me on that poster,” I muttered to myself.

But the truth is, it couldn’t have been. Because while they were honing their skills dancing at least once a week — sometimes two or three times — I was doing something else. While they were climbing three times a week and sending newer and more difficult routes, I wasn’t even exercising. Now multiply that by six months — and in the case on Lindy, years — and it becomes clear that I was never going to reach their level.

In Islamic school, we were taught to recite the Qur’an every single day.

“Because if you leave it for a day,” the Ustaz would warn us, “it will leave you for a week.”

Meaning if you fall behind a day, it would take you a week to catch up. And if you fall behind a week, it would take you a whole month.

The validity of the exact ratio is irrelevant. The point was that if something is important to you, you must be dedicated to it, or you may lose it. But it also means that if you do fall off track — which is something that we all do at some point in our lives — it’s never too late to catch up. It may take time, yes, but it’s possible.

So I’ve taken up climbing again. Once a week. Starting slow. I don’t know how long it’ll be till I can send another 7-dot, but I’m certain — as certain as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow — that it will happen.

As long as I’m alive, it’s only a matter of time.

One response

  1. It really is a matter of time. the comfort in knowing that no matter how long something has been dropped, one step is all it takes. thanks for sharing and can’t wait to see your progress!

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