Beyond My Limit

Huang Fellow Adway Wadekar reflects on his experience at the ropes course that his cohort completed (or in his case, didn’t).

My fear of heights is a weird one. As a kid, I dreamed of being a pilot or an astronaut. Flying in a metal tube has never scared me, but going to the SkyWalk at the Grand Canyon did. I think it’s being out in the open air or standing on what is meant to look like a flimsy structure that did it for me.

Regardless, when my cohort went to the ropes course at Go Ape in Raleigh, I was met with a similar experience. An open-air, 30-foot-high obstacle course where I would be at the mercy of what seemed like a set of flimsy ropes.

The first set of obstacles, where I learned the procedures by which I’d operate and attach my harness, was a relative piece of cake. The zipline at the end of it was actually fun. From the second course onwards, however, the fear of heights that I had experienced at the Grand Canyon kicked in. I wanted out, and I wanted out fast. As I climbed up the ladder, with a line of other people right behind me, the only thought in my mind was, “how can I get down.”

“You can’t do something important or difficult (whether on a personal level or otherwise) alone.”

Huang Fellows tackle a ropes course together

The first obstacle at the top of the second set was easy enough to complete. The second obstacle was terrifying. At its start, I simply froze. Of course, I tried telling myself every catchphrase in the book.

One foot in front of the other. Don’t look down. None of it worked.

What did work, though, was my roommate for the summer, who was right behind me. Instead of what I was telling myself, he justified his certainty in my safety through the obstacle with physics. I made it through the rest of that second course.

I made it through the next set of obstacles, too, in the same manner—with the support and guidance of my roommate.

And on the fourth set, I tapped out after looking at the obstacles. I didn’t make it through to the end of the course. I was happy with getting through three sets, though. But if my roommate hadn’t been there, I’d have quit much earlier.

On its face value, this experience has nothing to do with research. To me, it serves as a metaphor for the process of research and taught me two big-picture lessons.

First, you can’t do something important or difficult (whether on a personal level or otherwise) alone. You are bound to need help, whether its intellectual, emotional or of some other form. The people you surround yourself with—in this case, my roommate—matter. It’s a theme that I’ve heard over and over again this summer.

Second, it’s alright to take your time with things. For me, completing the course would have been awesome, just as developing groundbreaking technologies that change the direction of modern medicine would be. But incremental progress like making it through the third set of obstacles instead of stopping at the second is also worthwhile. It shows us what’s possible and serves as motivation to accomplish it.

Next time, I think I’ll make it through the fourth course, and perhaps beyond it.

“[I learned] it’s alright to take your time with things.”

Adway Wadekar, Huang Fellow ’25

wadekar_adwayAdway is a rising sophomore studying mathematics, economics and sociology. He hopes to pursue an academic career, investigating societal problems through the lens of data.