It was the summer after my freshman year of college. I was working as a camp counselor for the camp that I would spend my summers as a child. It was one of my first weeks, and all of the councilors were being trained on the high elements, which included the zip line, giant swing, tight rope, etc.
I want to say that I am not afraid of heights. I have never struggled with that feeling of panic that some people get doing these types of adventurous activities. However, when you are the one belaying someone up a rock wall or hooking them into a zip line, it is an entirely different feeling. If that kind of responsibility doesn’t make you feel a slight unease, perhaps you need to reevaluate.
The week of training was almost finished. The last thing we had to do was pass our emergency rescue certifications. The staff took a break for lunch and my boss asked me how I was feeling about all the training. I expressed to him that I wasn’t “afraid” necessarily, just not super confident about being up on the tower alone and in charge of keeping all of these tiny humans alive. He laughed at me and said, “you just have to learn to trust the equipment.” Okay. Thanks.
One thing that really annoys me is this concept of what I call “magic words.” Things like “let it go” or “don’t worry about it.” People may say them with good intentions, but ultimately, they aren’t super helpful. So anyway, it was a few hours later and I was the only one who hadn’t completed their certification. I prepared to go when, out of nowhere and as if by God Himself, the sky opened up and it started to pour. Lightning was in the distance, and I wouldn’t be safe if I was on the element when it reached us. I had to do this fast. So I started to climb up the 85-foot tower.
Maybe it was because I was in a rush, or because everyone was watching me, or because I was soaking wet and shivering, but I started to panic. I was alone on the side of this tower that shook back and forth due to the storm, and I was terrified. “Trust the equipment,” I kept repeating this to myself over and over, but my panic was getting worse. At this point, I had attached myself to the highest chord and was straddling two other chords at the top of the tower. The 250-pound football player I was supposed to “rescue” was dangling about 15 ft. in front of me. I was shaking so severely that the chords I was standing on were rattling. I kept telling myself to calm down. I am safe. I am attached. I am afraid for no reason. But this was not making me less afraid, and these magic words were not getting my panic to stop.
I bravely stepped out on to the wooden portion of the high element. Step by step, I inched towards my goal. I was almost there when suddenly, my feet slipped out from under me, off of the wet wood, and I free fell into the air. My whole body braced for impact…and then the equipment caught me.
Needless to say, I recovered and was able to complete the rescue before the lightning came and so life went on. But to this day, I remember those words so clearly. Since then, I’ve been all around the world, had my fair share of adventures and even graduated college. And often, I find myself in similar situations, having to trust the process and wishing that telling myself to calm down would be powerful enough to keep the inner storm at ease. Whether the equipment is a metaphor for a job interview, a new internship, a new relationship, or a new place, I have to learn to trust the process enough for me to climb onto the ladder and take the step of faith onto the slippery wooden platform.