A Hand to Hold On To

“Everyone needs a hand to hold on to, don’t need to be no strong hand, don’t need to be no rich hand, everyone just needs a hand to hold on to…” – John Mellencamp

Since I’ve been here in Colorado, I’ve been getting outside to explore as much as I can, and in doing so, I’ve been challenging one of my biggest fears.

My biggest fear isn’t actually climbing, but getting to the crags outside. I’m not a confident hiker (for many reasons, including a lack of depth perception), and the approaches out here have terrified me.

Two things keep me moving forward through this fear. The first is that I don’t want being afraid to hold me back from doing the thing I love most. And the second, without which the first probably wouldn’t be enough, is support from my friends.

My very first climb outside in Colorado was a climbing Meetup. After we met and briefly introduced ourselves, the group started up the scramble to the crag. I ended up last in line, and as everyone disappeared out of view, I tried to psyche myself up to make that first move. But I couldn’t do it. The fear had taken control. I wasn’t giving up, but I was stuck, sorting through my thoughts, afraid to take a step. After a few minutes, the organizer of the meetup came back down.

“Hey, are you okay?” he asked quizzically, trying to understand my predicament and why I was still at the very bottom of the approach.

I looked up and told him that I was scared and just trying to work up my courage. He offered to carry my pack, and though my problem was definitely more mental than physical, I appreciated the gesture. That sign of support was enough for me to actually pull myself up the first rock and start to make progress.

I made it up to the crag, full of adrenaline, and managed to climb, even though I still had the nagging fear in the back of my head that now I was committed and would have to reverse my steps to get back down at the end of the day.

And at the end of the day, several people in the group helped guide me back down to solid ground.

I decided to go on another meetup a few days later, after being promised an easier approach. But when the day came, the weather didn’t cooperate, and we ended up back at the same crag with the intimidating approach.

This time the leader of the group took my pack immediately, and I scrambled up pretty quickly (for me, at least!). And at the end of the day, thanks to equal parts encouragement and physical assistance, I got back down easily.

A week later, I headed out on another climbing adventure to a new place. All morning, I was anxious because I didn’t know what the approach would be like. But just knowing that the friend I was going with was aware of my fears helped give me courage.

It turned out most of the approach was easy, except for the last little bit up to the base of the climbs. And, once again, my friend was there to offer support and make sure I was okay.

Soon I found myself in a gully on the side of a hill, ready to climb. I moved cautiously around my perch, lest I slide down the side of the mountain, but I felt completely fulfilled.

I had made it up there, and I knew that after we climbed, I would have help getting back down. I had a friend to lead the way and tell me, “I’m not going to lie, this part is going to suck.” But also to offer his hand for me to hold on to as I navigated my way through.

That kind of support, both literal and emotional, is what I needed to get through my fear.

And that is what I am so grateful for in my life. I have so many friends, both old and brand new, who I can confide in when I’m scared, whether of an actual or metaphorical mountain, knowing that they won’t make fun of me or tell me to get over it, but, instead, will hold out their hand and say “I’ve got you.”

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