—This story is dedicated to every caving fresher who feels underconfident. It takes time, you just don’t know how much time it will take to be the best caver you could be. Let’s just jump right into it—
“Ah, good morning Mr. Seddon!”
I am in a cold hall, layered with the warmest clothes I could gather before I left for CHECC. A few other early birds are about, their low voices murmuring in the corners on the room. With only 2 hours of sleep under my belt, I was struggling to stay positive.
“And what do you need Miss Freshwater-Blizzard?” Tony sits down and gives a smile.
“Oh, I need an oversuit please! I’d love to try them on!”
Tony gave a soft smile, looks down and back at me: “That’s not what I asked. Elise. What do you really need?”
He had understood. How long had he known for? My eyes flickered around the room while my thoughts raced. I managed to babble out a sentence very quickly giving a brief description of what came to mind. I found that, the more I talked, the faster I spoke.
“I just want to be respected.. I just want to be a good caver and complain less and actually not get so cold because the others don’t seem to and the others seem to be great and can do Titan, my gosh how wonderful would it be to do Titan one day?” I stop myself and take a great sigh that perfectly refills my lungs, embarrassed I’d even mention all this in truth.
I looked back at Tony, sitting only a few meters away, surrounded by his precious kit store. He looks at me directly and states: “I know. And I can help you, but I need you to believe me first.”
Rewind to The Previous Week.
“Don’t listen to them, you’re a young woman in the club who is an excellent caver. You’re just underconfident, that’s all. I know you feel uncertain when you look at the others, but that’s because they’ve had years more experience than you. And in the end, we’re all God’s creatures and deserve to be treated with respect”
We are walking towards the Cobden as the cold bites into our necks. Jolene and I have been talking about this for a while now. She gives these words of encouragement, but it’s hard to believe.
“It’s just, I feel like I should be better at this point after 2 years of doing it. I mean, I still haven’t got any of my own kit yet.” I complain.
Jolene’s eyes light up in shock “You STILL don’t have any of your own…no. Nevermind that. That shouldn’t be important to your skill of knowing and exploring caves. This should be done in your own time and when it works best for you.”
But she hadn’t truly understood. I truly believed my mind wasn’t built for caving. I am clumsy, my body tends to move slowly, like one of those nightmares where you want to run, but it feels like your stuck in one place, or can only move like you are surrounded in thick mud. Seeing the others be so natural at it felt like shame. If only I could be like them?
After briskly walking through the cold that pierced into our skins, we headed into the bubble of warmth that is the Cobden. We unravel ourselves and bask in the warmth of the packed inn: full of travellers, cavers, drunks, and climbers.
Across the bar, sat ‘her’. Now, I don’t tend to garner crushes, but here sat this wonderful human being who I had an utter crush on. She was wonderful, everything she did had purpose. Her long brown hair hung down around her chest and her bright blue eyes lit as she laughed. I didn’t know too much about her, but I knew she was adventurous and sporty, liked beer and we were the same age
“Hi Emma*! It’s great to see you!” I walk up to her, and then offer her a drink
“Nah I’m good thanks.” She gives me a ‘fuck off’ look that women have seemed to have perfected over the years. I know my place.
I scan the room and see the cavers laughing, talking and drinking into the night. Emma joins the small, compact circle in the corner. It is filled with the souls of the most experienced of cavers. The hours of SRT training in those minds would amount to that of 50 years, and the very skill as that of an old confusious cave dweller, who knows about the very complexities of life far beyond the reach of me.
I walk away and leave to go back out into the depths of the cold.
*Emma is a made up name, feel free to interchange this with your favourite caver.