I have always had an aversion to heights. I get incredibly terrified just thinking about being more than a couple feet off the ground, but I have always known that I would have to eventually face the fear and conquer it. When I was in high school, I was offered an incredible opportunity to go to Costa Rica with my Spanish teacher. One of the caveats of the trip was a willingness to participate in some adventurous sports such as white water rafting and going on a zip line through the cloud forest. The latter spurred in me an interest to finally be able to conquer my fear of heights so I decided to choose that as my adventure that I would take.
I had no idea of what I was getting myself into. If I thought that my fear of heights would be conquered in one fell swoop, I was sadly mistaken. We embarked on our trip and I was having a great time. All the while, I felt this nagging sense of dread at the thought of having to go on the zip line through the forest. I knew, however, that if I passed on the opportunity I would later regret it.
In order to get to the zip line, we has to climb a rickety ladder that was embedded within one of the largest trees I had ever seen. I felt myself getting scared and wanting to turn back while climbing up the ladder, but something within made me persevere. I can vividly remember getting to the top finally and standing on the platform waiting for the zip line. I was shaking like a leaf in the wind. Never in life had a experienced such a debilitating fear.
Several of my classmates were on the platform with me and I deigned to let them all go first. Finally, it was only myself and one of the guides for the cloud forest tour left. Obviously, he was not going to let me go after him, so I knew that I would have to summon all of the courage that was within me and go on the zip line. I made a move to go toward teh line, but immediately pulled back. I cried that I could not do it and wanted to go back down. I remember the tour guide telling me so many encouring words about how I’d made it past the hard part (climbing the tree) and all that was left was for me to zoom down the line.
All I had to do was take the first step. I could hear the voices of my classmates and chaperones urging me to just do it. They all knew how badly I wanted to conquer my fear of heights and had been supportive the whole way. Hearing their words of encouragement shook me out of my fear. I walked away from the edge that I had been clutching so tighly and told the tour guide that I was ready. He hooked the necessary straps to my harness and gave me a quick hug. He let me know that he was incredibly proud of me for coming this far and it was okay if I didn’t want to do it. I quickly shushed him, letting him know that I was ready.
I don’t know if it was the voices of my classmates below encouraging me or the incredibly patient tour guide, but something inside of me suddenly was no longer afraid. I walked to the edge of the platform and took the first step. The ride down the zip line was a blur that first time, to be honest. I do remember, however, the feeling of powerfulness that I felt as I reached the end of the line. I had been stunted for so long by my fear. After the first time it was if a huge weight was lifted.
I must have gone down that zip line at least another five or six times that day. Each time, I felt more empowered than before. Any time I am faced with a decision that is hard or brings out the fear within, I recall my time in the Costa Rican cloud forest. I think back to how I felt while waiting to get on that zip line and how the fear dissipated once I finally took the first step. From then on, my mantra has been to just take the first step. Once you take that initial step and see that it is not that bad, everything that you may have been afraid of seems that much easier.
More often than not these days, I need to remind myself to take the first step. It seems as if I am afraid of everything these days. If I cannot guarantee an outcome which will end positively for me, I shy away from taking chances. I didn’t used to live my life like this and I can no longer continue to live this way. I need to start taking chances again, consequences be damned. Mind you, this does not mean I will embark on foolish pursuits! It means that I need to snap out of the state of sameness in which I am firmly entrenched and shake things up a bit. Here goes nothing. . .