I don’t have a picture of the time I climbed a 5.10b–let’s say for the first time, but so far it’s the only time. It was just me and my partner, and our hands were kind of busy at that moment.
I don’t have a picture of the first mountain I summitted. I was 16, and I was dirty and tired, on Day 3 of a four day backpacking trip.
I do have a picture of the first time I hiked a 14er, but I wasn’t feeling euphoric about it and it showed. What I don’t have is a picture of me an hour later, when I was halfway back down the mountain. Because that’s when I was feeling pretty damn awesome about what I had just accomplished.
I also have a picture of me crossing the finish line of the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, but I don’t have a picture of me 15 minutes later, which was how long it took to walk off the pain.
I don’t have a picture of the exact moment my friend turned to me, after a hard day of climbing, and said, “You know, I feel really good about what we did here today.”
I don’t have a picture of a thousand I love you‘s. Hell, I don’t even remember most of them, not even my first.
Sometimes I get lucky. Sometimes the camera captures the exact moment I want to remember forever. But more often than not the moment comes and goes and will one day be forgotten completely. It’s hard not to feel sad about that.
These moments matter, even if we don’t remember them. They build on each other, pushing us further than we were yesterday, making us stretch in new directions. It’s only been 18 months since my first climb, and already I struggle to remember the details. I definitely don’t remember the first time I made it to the top. But it must have felt pretty good, because I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since. I might not remember the first 5.6, but I couldn’t have gotten to 5.10b without it.
It’s always the moments in between the photographs.
These are the moments that make us.