I got started on rock climbing a little after I turned fifteen years old. My mother was terrified, and although my father smiled and said he was proud, I knew it made him nervous as well. I’m aware no one wants to see their little kid hanging from a rock a couple of dozen feet above the ground.
But I had a good start. My uncle and aunt would take me rock climbing every weekend for months. I must have been a good or nice company because as far as I know, they did it all through the kindness of their hearts. After a little while, I found ways to climb even on weekdays. All through the city, I would find all kinds of rock walls and a way to climb them. A few times I was nicely called out, a few times I was told to leave their private property before they called the police and once or twice I left the place running with some big dogs running after me.
That’s the thing about passion though, and it makes you unstoppable. Since that first day when my aunt secured the straps and the helmet and everything around me three times, and I barely climbed above my uncle’s head with him still holding on to my heel as if that would keep me straight up – since then I just knew things would change. I felt, that first day, a fire ignited in my soul and an unexplainable hunger growing inside me. Soon enough I found out that’s what people called ambition. It did take me far in life.
I’m now on my twenties, and rock climbing has taken me to quite some heights. Remarkably, I had climbed on the five continents of the world before turning thirty. So far, not a single injury had made me stop for longer than a month, that was luck, certainly. But I wasn’t complaining at all. Achieving all my goals, a successful career and continuous good luck… I was enjoying life.
With my experience and somewhat good reputation, I decided to do something good with it for someone other than me for once. This summer with the help of a few friends I started a small summer school for kids to learn about rock climbing. It was a joy and so, so much fun. Little kids are hilarious, seriously. And recognizing in their eyes the same passion that once captured me, that’s priceless.
Of course, there are also the ones that hate it, the ones that go just because they’re parents said so or because all their little friends are doing it too. They’re not as fun. But I do my job, I teach them as best as I can, I calm down parents, and I make sure the kids are safe and having fun and learning the basics.
Still, I’m entirely convinced this is just a summer job. I don’t plan on staying for too long, in fact, this is my last day, and I’m eager to leave already. I like teaching, and I love teaching, I think. But could I do it for any longer? I don’t know, and my thoughts are abruptly interrupted by a little kid tugging on my t-shirt to get my attention. It’s early yet, and the onlookers and customer are about to arrive, but so far it’s just this little kid in a pristine white shirt, perfectly ironed jeans and new shoes, and behind him another kid, a little older and taller, more of a teenager, and way more disheveled, going barefoot, with holes in his jeans and stains in his t-shirt.
“Excuse me, sir. Good morning. My name is Lucas. I want to learn to climb. If my mom gives me money and I pay, will you please teach me how to climb?”
His sweet, clearly rehearsed speech is endearing, but I can’t help but spill the truth on him.
“I’m sorry little boy. I finish work today, and there’s not much you can learn in just one day.”
I attempt to smile to ease the blow, thinking he was going to be disappointed, but the kid was relentless.
“I can learn a lot in one day. Besides, you live in this city, don’t you? I can keep coming any day!”
He’s getting excited, and he knows what he’s doing, a dangerous combo.
“I’m sorry, again. I will be too busy.”
I start to turn around, hoping the boys will leave me alone, but then the other one speaks up.
“If I beat you on a race on this hill, will you teach Lucas how to climb?”
His voice is confident, of a boy much older, but I seriously can’t help but laugh.
“I’ve climbed this particular rocky wall the entire summer, kid. You can’t beat me. And if you are so good…”
“Is that a yes?”
I don’t imagine that the little boy, barefoot and without any safety means will run and jump right into the rocks. I’m dumbfounded for a second at his courage, and another second at the fact that’s he’s flawlessly climbing at an incredible speed. Then I finally wake up and rush and struggle to catch up. I’m almost twice his height, but I find it impossible to reach him!
“Hey! Stop it! How are you doing this?!”
“I live around the corner! This was my playground!”
He laughs and keeps moving while I desperately rush. Suddenly my hand slips, and it throws me off balance. It was a bad move, and I’m about to fall. I know the fall would hurt me gravely. My scream must have reached his ears because a second later he’s securing my arm, keeping me steady.
“If I save your life and let you win this… will you teach Lucas how to climb professionally?”
“I’m going to make that kid the best rock climber in the world!”
I shout, making sure the other boy listens. Maybe having an apprentice won’t be so bad after all.