Now, I'm not exactly a pro-rock climber. In fact my only experience at the sport would be from my time in middle school, when part of our "project adventure" unit was to climb on a 8 foot rock wall that was so easy to climb around virtually anyone could do it. So as I bought special shoes (who would've guessed they have special shoes for rock climbing?) you can imagine I was a little nervous. We walked downstairs where one of the guys we had come with showed us the ropes (or the rocks, if you prefer) and explained that we should follow the highlighter yellow colored tapes as it was a pretty easy course.
After a few others went I decided to give it a go, without having much confidence in myself. I put my hands on the hold first as the guy instructed me and then slowly began working across the wall, moving a hand here, a foot there. I was immediately surprised by the strain my muscles felt, not only to keep myself on the wall but to stretch to the next hold. This particular path stayed close to the ground as it rounded the corner, and eventually started rising. My feet were about three feet off the ground when I paused, holding on to the wall while I could feel my muscles screaming "let go." Unsure of where to step next, I turned to the guy who was telling me where to go all along. He pointed to a hand hold about a foot and a half above my head.
“Yeah, that’s not happening,” I said, preparing to jump off the wall.
“Wait, no! Just reach for it. It’s not as far as you think,” he told me, and the others standing by watching unanimously agreed.
I guess the lessons about not giving in to peer pressure didn’t pay off; I’m a people pleaser, and wasn't about to let down this group of kids, regardless of how disinterested they might have been in my success. So I remained there a few seconds longer, gathering up whatever little amount of strength I had left, and pulled myself up while releasing my grip to grab the new hold. To my surprise, I felt the rough sandpapery feel of the fake stone hold rub across my hand (just before I plummeted to the ground). On the ground I was pleased with myself., When it had felt like I could pull myself a maximum of two inches, I had pulled myself as high as I needed to in order to reach the hold.
This post is certainly not a pro-rock climbing advertisement, as much as it should be as I had a really fun time. Beyond the rocks, however, it’s incredibly essential that we don’t tell ourselves no because we think our body isn’t strong enough, or because we’re not smart enough, or old enough (or for you oldies out there, young enough!) or any excuse we can come up with. Sure, it’s easy to hide behind some excuse we’ve made to justify our actions, and most people won't care if you are indeed hiding behind such an excuse, but the reward when we reach our goals will overcome any pain or hardship we feared beforehand. These are the premises on which I started Tying Up Cancer, deciding that I would no longer let the fear of failure stop me from pursuing what I wanted. And I can't say I ever once for a second regretted reaching for my goals. It certainly wasn't (and still isn't) easy to earn the true respect of adults, but I've learned that if you work hard enough, they'll have no choice but to acknowledge and respect your efforts.
I'll admit, later in the night there was one time I fell off the wall from about 5 feet up. There are times like these when we will dare to reach, and we'll fall. But I can promise you one thing: the ground is never as far away as you think.