“I worked at a climbing gym called Tufas Boulder Lounge.”
For one month Tufas was lucky enough to have a climbing gym intern named Liam. Reproduced below is Liam’s essay about his experience as a climbing gym employee: the good, the bad, and the light custodial work it takes to keep a premier climbing gym running.
For the month of January, I worked at a climbing gym called Tufas Boulder Lounge. I had a variety of jobs, from janitorial duties (climbing gyms require a ton of upkeep!) to social media researching and marketing. My very first task coming into Tufas Boulder Lounge was to pick up litter from the ground outside and around the climbing gym. My tasks quickly rose in importance though. After completing all the cleaning and organizing tasks that I was given, I got to manage the desk alongside an employee. The next day I was again promoted to a higher job: data entry and research on Instagram. For the majority of my project, I was dedicated to the Instagram project, though nearing the end when I had completed it, I was assigned to create Instagram posts for the gym.
I learned several things while working at the climbing gym, how to use remote project management and customer relations management software, climbing gym etiquette, how to clean and organize a climbing gym, and more. Most importantly, I learned how to act and work in a professional workplace atmosphere. There were different ways of interacting with coworkers, patrons, and management. I could be pretty casual with members at the gym who knew the staff well but had to be more formal with new patrons. I took a casual tone with coworkers but had to be more formal and less personal when speaking to people above me. Over time, however, these bonds had evolved.
While I don’t expect them to be more than acquaintances, I developed new relationships with people. Over time I became friends with some employees and learned more about them, finding similar interests and seeing each person’s uniqueness. I held a range of conversations, some light and some deep and philosophical. One conversation, I remember, crossed over the subjects of gender, sexuality, drugs, addiction, and mental health. I think it had a profound impact on me.
My work environment was diverse in gender, sexuality, and ethnicity for which I’m grateful; a diverse community allows for more interesting conversations with different perspectives and it allows for a sense of safety in knowing you will be accepted as you are.
Since I was without the structure of classes during my internship, I learned a bit about independence through my January experience. I’ve always understood what independence meant and might entail. I’ve had my fair share of learning about independence in the past throughout my life. This experience was a good reminder of what my near future will probably look like. Finding my own way to places, knowing how to stay safe on the streets and when staying home alone, as well as little things like making all my own meals and knowing what work I have to get done without a reminder like Google Classroom.
A challenge I had was shifting from my data entry and research project to creating posts for the climbing gym. Creating posts that detail information was difficult because I still didn’t know the details of Tufas; for example, if I were to create a post promoting the gym’s fitness class then I needed to know what exactly the fitness class does, whether they’re doing cardio or lifting, cross-training, etc. I was, however, not at the gym during the times of classes other than the Bouldering 101 and 201 lessons and so had a much more difficult time doing this. In the end, I decided to simply do what was possible and created the posts to the extent that I could, leaving them slightly unfinished with markers where the post needed extra information. Some posts were easy to complete alone though, posts that are meant to grab people’s attention to new things or activities at Tufas Boulder Lounge so they’re persuaded to come by.
This experience raised a few questions for me. Simple questions like do I want this type of job to get me through college and over the summer? As well as more difficult questions such as whether I want a job where I’m a manager or employee, doing menial tasks every day or a job as an owner or where I’d have more challenging tasks like a doctor. While many people see a simple answer to this, always choose the more engaging and money-making choice, I see a bright side to choosing a simpler job, mental health has always been an area of difficulty for me and a smoother job might allow me to work more on my health and personal issues without excessive stress. This is something I will continue to contemplate over the coming months.
Liam Barber is a sixteen-year-old that goes to Germantown Friends School. His main interests are reading, coloring, and athletics. He recently got into climbing as a hobby through his time spent at Tufas.