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  • In rock climbing, there is a word that is often heard at the base of boulders and sheer rock walls. This word is commit. It is used when a climber has reached a point of exhaustion and is faced with a difficult move. When a climber reaches this point, his/her partner will yell,

    “Commit.”

    Then, there is a moment of silence and the climber is faced with a choice, give in and give up or to commit every ounce of energy left to make the next move.

    Often the climber gives in; the muscles grow slack and the climber retreats. However, sometimes, the muscles suddenly tighten and the climber makes the move with grace and ease. Commit, that is what the climber has done.

    On December 1st 2004, Jeff Kelly had reached a point of exhaustion and was faced with a difficult move. He was 40 years old, more handsome than most and had an intellect of diamond strength. He also had never been able to fully commit. In 40 years, he had let go of several jobs, friends and women. He didn’t want to let go, but the ghost of his childhood always seemed to tell him that he was not worthy of attainment. So, Jeff would do what he always did; he would destroy his opportunity. He would walk out of jobs; he would say rude things to his friends, and he would devastate the women. At 40, this caught up with him and he was faced with a difficult move, give up or learn to commit.

    On December 1st 2004, Jeff Kelly took a belt, wrapped it around his neck and a closet rod and slumped. His body grew slack while the belt tightened. He was found a week later by a friend. Shit in his jeans, two fingers missing from his hand. Jeff was pronounced dead immediately. Suicide.

    The people left behind from Jeff’s suicide were faced with a difficult move. I was one of them. For more than a decade, Jeff had been my friend, my confidant, my kindred. We also shared the same ghost. I had heard the same ghost tell me the same.

    “You’re not good enough.”

    “You can’t possibly think you deserve this.”

    “You’re worthless and you always will be.”

    When Jeff would tell me of his latest defeat (which he always framed as somebody else’s fault), I could almost hear the voice of his ghost whisper,

    “Let it go, Jeff, you’re a worthless piece of shit, so burn it down before it burns you.”

    With Jeff gone, the only thing I had left was a ghost. It haunted me; it talked to me; it exhausted me and it drove me to the desert. The desert is where I met rock climbers; it is where I learned the word commit. Somewhere on that desert floor, that word drowned out the voice of my ghost.

    “Commit.”

    There was a moment of silence and I was faced with a choice, give in and give up or to commit every ounce of energy left to make the next move.

    Eight years ago today, Jeff Kelly made a decision. This date never escapes my attention as I scurry up this rocky terrain.
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