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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

The Adventure.

When I signed up for classes for my first semester of college, I was by far the most excited about Rock Climbing. When I was younger, I climbed on everything, not just climbing walls, but counters, furniture, shelves, trees, fences, roofs. I loved it. Being high up made me feel separated from everyone and everything. I could get away and just breathe. Plus, I was good at climbing, and, as someone who is extremely competitive, I love participating in things I’m good at. I thought taking Rock Climbing would be fun and easy, a way to relieve my stresses from everyday life. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

During my senior year of high school, I had taken on a lot of responsibilities, a lot more than I’d ever had before. On top of these new responsibilities, I had concurrent enrollment and AP classes to worry about, not to mention filling out college applications. I was under a lot of pressure, and I started having what I refer to now as anxiety attacks. After I graduated, many of my stressors were gone and I was getting a lot more sleep, so the attacks stopped for a while.

You may be wondering what any of that has to do with rock climbing. Well, the first time we had to top-rope on the wall, I stopped breathing. I got past the bouldering line (about 15 feet up the wall) and I felt my throat closing, my heart racing, hands sweating, and joints lock up. I tried to breathe as hard as I could and started hyperventilating. I had to get back to the ground, so I told my belayer to lower me. Luckily, he was a close friend who understood what was happening and didn’t push me to keep climbing. From that day on, I hated rock climbing. Thinking about getting on that wall made me sick to my stomach, and I was heartbroken that something that used to relieve my stress was now causing it.

Ever since I was little, my dad has taught me that I am the only person or thing that can take complete control of how I feel. I knew that if I just worked on it and didn’t give up, that I would learn to enjoy being on that wall, so that’s what I did. I went every week, climbed as high as I could for as long as I could, did breathing exercises, pushed myself harder and harder. I’ll never forget the first day I made it to the top of that wall. I was about two-thirds of the way up when my heart started racing, palms started sweating. I stared straight ahead and counted out my breaths. I could hear the assistant instructor telling me to keep going and my friend, who was belaying me, telling him about my anxiety. I could have let that push me over the top. I could have lost control and given up, but I didn’t. I took a deep breath, and I started climbing again. I took back control of my mind, my emotions and made it to the top of the wall and rang that bell. I was shaking like hell when I came back down, but I had done it.

Another big challenge during this class was accepting that it was okay not to be good at something. Even after I learned to master my anxiety, I wasn’t very good at climbing compared to a lot of other students in the class. It still took me a long time to get up the wall, and I still had to stop periodically to breathe. It also didn’t help that I am not very strong or fit. At first, I was down about how poor of a climber I was, but then I realized that if not letting my anxiety control me is a choice then having fun and being happy is a choice too. I decided that making progress, completing more and more difficult runs, and getting stronger each week was what made climbing fun. I no longer had to force myself to go to class, I couldn’t wait to get on that wall!

I know it seems cheesy, but this class taught me so much more about myself than it did about rock climbing. I love climbing, and I want to continue improving my technique on outdoor climbs. The things I learned in this class about climbing technique and safety are very important, and I’ll use them whenever I climb. However, the things I learned about controlling my anxiety and choosing to have fun will be used every day for the rest of my life. Now, those lessons may not have been listed in the syllabus, but I sure am glad I learned them.

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Salt Lake Community College

4600 South Redwood Road Salt Lake City, UT 84123
Student Services hours: M - F : 7am -7pm
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