My first experience with rock climbing was all the way back in middle school. I had gone to an indoor rock-climbing gym for a friend’s birthday party. I don’t remember the day too well (it was twenty years ago, after all), but the climbing itself still stands out in my memory.
I tried climbing three or four times that day. Every time, I’d get paralyzed with fear as soon as I got about ten feet up the wall. Despite encouragement from my friends, I’d end up needing to be lowered down each time. I kept trying, hoping that I could push past my fear and reach the top, but I never did.
I didn’t think much about rock climbing after that until over a decade later when Youtube came around. I don’t know how or why, but I discovered the massive cache of rock climbing videos on Youtube and was completely enthralled by them.
Watching the top climbers in the world stretch from hold to hold was inspiring. Something about climbing looked incredibly satisfying to me. In my eyes, climbing had a perfectly coordinated beauty to it.
Part of me wanted so badly to try it for myself, but another part of me allowed my fears to get in the way.
A Life Governed By Fear
Okay, that subtitle may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve always felt like my phobias have gotten in the way of me doing what I want to do.
In the years after my rock-climbing attempt in middle school, my fear of heights had actually gotten even worse. Looking out the windows of tall buildings triggered it. Driving over bridges triggered it. Even going up two or three rungs on a ladder was enough to make my palms sweat.
At the same time, I was also developing social anxiety. I had the most trouble in crowds, but going to stores and interacting with cashiers made me nervous as well.
As much as I wanted to try rock climbing, these two big fears held me back. I assumed that I would never be able to climb more than a couple feet of the ground, and I also worried about even being able to get myself into a crowded gym.
When I learned about bouldering, I thought it might at least solve one of these problems. Bouldering is a type of rock climbing done relatively low to the ground…