Climbing Walls

If there’s anything I’m constantly learning here in college, it’s that opportunities and connections are endless, and failure, while imminent, is not completely inhibiting.

Monday was an example of this.  It was a typical day of classes, and I had stopped for lunch, prepared to eat alone and by the windows (because I have a window fetish, every time I eat or study in a building, or even when I’m riding in vehicles, I’ve gotta be near a window) to the lull of classical music and the stimulation of a thick art history textbook.  I was about to sit down when I heard someone call my name.  I turned around to see one of my friends from governor’s school, specifically the French academy. She had a girl with her and they were about to sit to eat, and she asked me if I wanted to join her. Some people don’t know that, though I appear extroverted, I am very socially awkward and introverted at times… So I was a bit skeptical about sitting with a) a person I only really know through language, and 2) a complete stranger.  But I told myself that this was something I should do, took the leap and said yes.

We ended up introducing ourselves all over, and two hours passed easily full of rich conversation about life, friends, politics (blech), family, and goals. Not once did I reach for myself. {NOTE: I’m trying to accumulate as many “I’m here, I’m present, I’m engaging in what it means to be human” moments as possible, so this felt like a personal win}.  I ended up clicking very well with the new girl, and I found out she lived right next door in the dorm next to me.  We walked back from lunch together, and on the way she described her love for rock climbing.  I told her I’d never been before, and then she offered to take me to the university rec center to try it out.  Just like that, I had a date with my long overdue friend Fitness on the side of a cliff.
(Just kidding.  It was an indoor climbing wall.)

I learned many new things that night, like the command-based conversation for when you’re about to start climbing:
Me: “On belay!”
Belayer: “Belay on.”
Me: “Climbing!”
Belayer: “Climb on”
*time passes and in theory I make it to the top and then after a bit I’m ready to come down*
Me: “Falling!”
Belayer: “OKIE DOKIE!”

Or something like that.
But as I was getting in the harness and chalking up, I saw one of my peers from high school.  She approached me and we did our friendly hellos, and then she asked me
“What are you doing here?” And her curt question made me confused and taken aback for a second…  It’s a rock climbing gym.  There’s a wall…and I’m going to climb it. 
“I’m gonna climb this wall, what about you?”
Sure, it was my first time.
Sure, I was shorter than like, 98% of the people in the room.
Sure, at times I had no idea what I was doing… and maybe this is me taking a little bit too much offense to that question or reading into it a bit too much, but let me tell you, I was suddenly filled with a lot of motivation to make it to the top.

“On belay!”
Belay on.
Climb on.

And I climbed.
As someone who climbed over everything in sight as a younger child, it felt oddly familiar (and somewhat comfortable!) to be climbing vertically, looking for handholds and seeking the next foothold.  Some paths didn’t work out, some things were *just* out of reach,, and some moments of losing balance and falling back into the harness made my heart skip a few beats.
But like with a LOT of things in life, looking forward and stretching out, shoving your fists in cracks and pressing on leads you to the top.
I wish I could have stayed at the top of the rock wall a bit longer, but other people were waiting below.

It just made me feel this small sense of accomplishment, in the face of all the work I had still yet to do, in the face of all the negativity floating around rooted in bias and prejudice of current issues.  And it made me think, what if everyone could climb a rock wall? If not a physical one, then a figurative or theoretical one? My arms were sore the next morning, and like a lot of other things, you don’t gain an accurate appreciation for something until you’ve tried it or struggled through it.

Let’s try climbing all of our own walls, rock or otherwise, this week, eh?


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