On Fears & Climbing

On Fears & Climbing

If you know me at all, you know how debilitating my fear of heights is. I can't stand on third-floor balconies, I can't ride in glass-walled elevators, I have a hard time with stairs that have gaps between, I can't look down from mountain peaks, I can't stand on ladders...you name it. Acrophobia is real. 

On top of my fear of heights...I love routine. I thrive on schedules, things I am used to and feeling comfortable. While I "try" to make a concerted effort to do new things, I admittedly approach them with a pretty reluctant attitude. 

So, between my excruciating fear of heights and my desire for routine and creature comforts, when I was asked to go rock climbing a week or so ago, my initial reaction was a hard no. I had been climbing before (years before) and hadn't been a huge fan. I'd get about four feet above the ground and the shakiness and panic would set in and I'd ask to be let down...much to the chagrin of more experienced climbing partners. My experience lead climbing was only worse - where I froze on the wall for minutes at a time, only to start crying. Beyond that, I wasn't too keen on the idea of going with someone I had met just once - briefly - in a yoga class. While part of me loves meeting new people, I am pretty uncomfortably shy...and I feared this trait would only be worse doing an activity I was already petrified of. Plus, an evening climbing would throw off my ever-so "important" routine of hanging out with my cat, binging on Sex and the City and reading. 

For some reason, though, I agreed. 

So, off to Mesa Rim (one of San Diego's climbing gyms) I went. An hour in, I conquered a few bouldering routes...and made it to the top of two top rope climbing routes. Two hours later, I headed to dinner with my new friend. Shakiness and panic and shyness involved, sure, but nothing debilitating. Instead, much to my surprise, climbing felt really exhilarating, empowering and challenging (both mentally and physically) in the best way possible. I came home after dinner feeling really strong, confident and a little more outgoing than usual. I was even more excited that no tears were shed and no falling happened...who would have thought?! 

When I finally got home that night (where my cat and routine were still waiting for me), I pondered a few things: Why do humans hold often irrational fears? Why don't I take more chances if they pay out pretty nicely, like this one did? Why was I holding myself back - and making hard assumptions about how things that scared me would go? And...when was the last time I even challenged myself to go outside of my comfort zone? 

Above all, I pondered: what could I gain from facing my fears and changing up my routine? Well, that confidence and strength I felt after climbing...I felt it the rest of the week. I have bolder and more eager to take on professional and personal challenges. I am capable of more than I think I am...and who knew you could meet some really cool people outside of your routine and circle? Not me. 

So, moral of the story: fears are valid - and so is routine - but sometimes, you learn the most from yourself and experience the most growth when you do the shit that scares you. 

PS - Climbing is hard. I think I was sore for 48 (okay, let's be real because who am I kidding...72) straight hours. 

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