I longed to rock climb for years. One year I promised myself I would learn before the year ended. That year passed and then a couple more passed all with ample opportunity to learn from friends who frequently offered to teach me. I always turned down these offers with the excuse that I did not trust these people enough. The reality was that I have battled a fear of heights since at the age of 9. On a flight from CO to VT lightning struck the airplane I was on, resulting in a drop straight down. Coincidentally, the idea of free falling is terrifying to me!
After 10 years of telling myself I would climb a rock face, I decided to work on conquering my fear of heights. It was the only way I was ever going to climb up higher than 4 feet off the ground and help to alleviate a lifelong fear of flying.
2008. Costa Rica. I stood on the edge of a rainforest canyon looking out at a tree standing 200 feet above the canyon floor. My goal was to get there and then to the canyon floor, preferably alive. Standing on that dark canyon edge, harness encircling my legs and waste, and the pull of cable and caribiner urging me to go, I felt a surge of excitement shoot throughout my entire body. Before it could fade into fear I gripped the handlebar and shoved off the edge of the canyon. So this is what flying was like! Gliding through the air, high up in the tree canopy, I felt more alive and free than I have ever felt in my entire life!
Of course I still needed to get to the ground. Standing on the platform swaying in the breeze, I clipped into the rope and slowly backed off the platform. My fear of falling rushed back and I began to panic. In my head I started to tell myself that I was crazy, I was going to fall to the ground and smash into a million pieces. But that is not what happened at all. Somewhere amidst the intense fear and shaky hands, I just let go and began to focus on the task at hand. Lowering myself became my only goal in life. I was armed with the tools and skills to enable me to succeed. Confident in my skills and ability to use them, I lowered myself safely to the ground.
The following October I officially learned to climb indoors on a climbing wall. As I announced “Climb On!” to my belayer, I grabbed the wall with confidence, chose a route, and climbed effortlessly to the top in minutes. Leaning back to take in how far I had come, I laughed out loud. I was so proud of myself for accomplishing such a difficult goal! Before rappelling down, I said a quiet yet victorious “YES!” to myself while a room full of climbers cheered my success from below.