Just-Keep-Swimming
For some people fear is a tricky thing. It’s a known fact that when you are put in a stressful and scary situation your trusty, “Fight or Flight” receptors kick in. I for one would like to challenge this idea by adding another option into the mix – freeze. When I get really scared I tend to freeze up physically. I sort of get that deer caught in headlights look and it feels almost like I’ve hit a wall and I'm unsure how to move forward, so I tune everything out and just stare at the wall, hoping that inspiration or some sort of spark will manifest with time.

Last month, I went on a school trip to a sports camp up north (more on that later), in which the majority of the activities involved not having your feet or any of your body on the ground. I’m talking high-ropes obstacle courses, rock climbing walls and zip lining, my worst nightmare (except for the zip lining which is pretty cool). I’ve mentioned before how I felt that I was overcoming my fear of heights thanks to all those fun trips to the amusement park, but I’ve learned the hard way that zooming through the sky while being strapped into a machine rolling on a fixed track is nothing compared to zipping across with nothing but a fancy harness and a helmet.

Why are you needlessly putting so much stress on yourself you might ask? Well, on the trip, we were split into groups and a few other designated classmates and I were the "group leaders" and helped to round up the rest of the kids to take them to their daily activities. As a leader, I took it upon myself to set the good example by participating in every activity, so that everyone else would feel involved too. However, instead of serving as inspiration for others to face their fears, I probably became the poster child for why you should always have at least one foot on the ground. On the first high-ropes activity, we were forced to climb up a thick wooden pole and then walk across a wooden plank bridge which --just to make things interesting-- were missing planks and had no railings, causing us to have to balance across à là Indiana Jones to get to the other side.

I distinctly remember starting my ascent up the wooden pole thinking, “As long as I make it to the top, I’ve already done enough.” But at this point, I was one of the last people to go and everyone was in need of a bit of entertainment (i.e. me). At the top almost everyone was watching me (and I learned later that due to my bright pink sweater and the altitude, I was visible from pretty much all over the camp), and so I felt that I had to continue on. The height and difficulty of the bridge were largely misleading from below, and I soon found out why a few people had had trouble making it across. My first step made the whole bridge bounce and sway, causing me to scream, scramble back to the pole and freeze up (evidently, not one of my best moments). At this point I was more of the Willie Scott (the character from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), than Indiana himself.

I'm must’ve stood up there gripping onto the pole for about 10 seconds (it felt so much longer), and I was just about to turn around and shimmy down the pole when I heard loud cheers from my group below. Although the cheering was heart-warming, it wasn’t nearly enough to make me move away from the safety of the first plank. Then amidst the cheers I heard the counsellor say, “Come on! All it takes is 20 seconds of courage!" and the next thing I knew I was on the move. I have always had pretty good balance and so I managed to swiftly and agilely make my way across the bridge and back to the centre to be lowered down with only a few minor slip ups and the occasional scream. Feeling a bit embarrassed, relieved and thrilled, I was successfully lowered to the ground and given a hug.

It’s safe to say that I learned a lot during that trip. I learned that I was capable of accomplishing a lot more than I previously thought. Throughout the trip I constantly had to introduce myself and meet new people and that same afternoon I went the zip lining -- which was something I hadn’t been able to complete before because I froze when I was half way up. Most importantly, I learned that it’s important to just keep moving. In life, I find that it gets really easy to slip into the everyday flow and to not want to leave your comfort zone. I find that sometimes people just stop trying, and when we stop trying to better ourselves and push our boundaries, we get stuck. When we stop ourselves from exploring the world and people around us because of fear, we stunt all the positive growth that could have occurred. Yes, I probably looked like a scare sloth when I was wrapped on the trunk, but it was a small price to pay for all of the fun memories and achievements that I was able to make.

I think that if you put the right effort into something that you want and believe in, than they will be rewarded somehow and in some unanticipated form. Like for all the struggle I went through in my little Indiana Jones adventure, rewarded me by giving me enough courage to actually jump (okay, step -- but it was an important step) off of the zip line platform without too much delay after my partner jumped off. For all my efforts, I've been rewarded in the form of a blog post idea about my experience. So I hope that when the going gets tough, that you start fighting, because I'm sure that you won't regret it. As the counsellor told me, it only takes 20 seconds of courage and if that doesn't help just remember to just keep swimming.