One of my New Year's Resolutions was to try new things, get out of my comfort zone. Along with the typical eat less chocolate, drink more water, stop buying shoes, I decided 2013 would be a great year to have new adventures. So when a friend decided to try an "Intro to Bouldering" class at a climbing gym last April, I decided to "just say yes" and tackle bouldering. What's the worst that can happen?
I admit I knew nothing about bouldering before that class. I was told it was sort of like rock climbing, but different. When we got to the gym, I saw walls covered in holds, padded floors and people just climbing away. I thought it was cool that they had traditional rock climbing in with the bouldering - so many options! Of course, I was under the impression that bouldering involved climbing a pile of boulders. and let me make one thing clear: there are no boulders in bouldering. Those people climbing away up the wall? They were bouldering. The difference between rock climbing and bouldering (that no one decided to tell me)? Safety equipment. Bouldering is, basically, rock climbing without a harness or rope over very, very padded floors.
But there I was standing on these chalky, padded floors in shoes that were way too tight and committed to one hour of hauling myself up a wall unassisted. No, not a problem at all.
And, surprisingly, it wasn't that much of a problem. Sure, my hands were raw, I learned about all sorts of new muscles in my shoulders, and discovered that this climbing, bouldering thing had some potential. Except there was one big catch - I was terrified of falling. Sure, it was padded and they taught us how to fall, but we were climbing up a good twelve to fifteen feet. And my luck being the way it is, I was sure I'd end up a pile of bruised injured mess on the floor.
There's a point in most bouldering routes where you have to take a leap of faith and trust your hands, arms and sometimes your legs not to let you down and make it to that next hold, or over the top. Not that this was a fear of heights, by any means, just a fear of hurting myself. So I'd get to that point, stop and climb back down. Finally, on my third trip climbing, I got frustrated with a route. A friend much more experienced at this climbing business than I was giving me tips on what foot to put where, and when to move my hand and yelled at me to just go for it already...and I did. I reached, jumped, missed and landed on the ground. And you know what? It wasn't so bad. Aside from a pretty major scrape on my right hand, I was in one piece. I hadn't really realized I was falling until I was flat on my back in a cloud of chalk.
So as we kept climbing, I was thinking to myself, "that's what I was afraid of?", and if that's what was holding me back, it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe the fear of something is worse than the thing itself. I felt like the Grinch when he discovered Christmas still happened without all the trimmings and presents.
Of course, I don't share this story with you to prove that I am indeed a klutz. Or skilled at trying new things that require a liability waiver. Rather, my point in telling you this is to show that maybe our worries about the pain for discomfort of trying something, of putting ourselves out there, or of, literally, falling, is worse than the actual trying or putting or falling. Maybe, in the end, it makes us a better person - we faced something that scared us or made us nervous and we succeeded. I know that one fall made me better because, spoiler alert, I'm hooked on bouldering. I'm a better climber than I expected to be in just a few months, and that's because I realized that what I was afraid of and what was holding me back wasn't so scary after all. I mean, there's a brief minute here and there where I worry, but not enough to stop me from going for it. Just a little food for thought this Tuesday afternoon...