That One Time I Put My Trust Into Some Rope and a CarabinerVivian learns about courage and self-acceptance while tackling a challenging high ropes course.
One, two, three…breathe in, breathe out…one, two, three…left foot, right arm…one, two, three…and don’t EVEN think about looking down…one, two, three… I repeat this mantra as I clip on a harness and begin my ascent up a tall, rickety, wooden ladder. The unseasonably chilly North Carolina breeze rustles the leaves, sways the trees, and shakes the ladder that I am clinging to for dear life. Begrudgingly, I will my body up the ladder and arrive at my first destination. Shakily standing on a small wooden platform, I hear screams of excitement (or terror? It’s hard to tell the difference) and watch my peers deftly hop across swaying wood platforms and scale ladders that extend even higher into the verdant canopy of oak and maple trees.
My gaze flits back and forth between yellow warning signs and red posters that read “This is a high-risk activity.” I shut my eyes and focus on the earthy smell of dirt and the musty smell of wood in an attempt to calm my pounding heart. However, I am shaken from my reverie by one of my peers saying, “Come on Vivian! It’s not as bad as it looks! Just go for it!” Seeing their smile waiting for me on the other side of a tightrope and hearing their words of encouragement, I take a tentative step onto the tightrope. The minute I start my slow progression across the tightrope, I feel my anxiety float away with the wind and my heart beat with anticipation as to what would come next. “Just do it” is what the Nike ads always tell us and as cliche as this advice is, it is applicable to all facets of life. Fear of walking across tightropes, fear of rejection, fear of failure: all types of fears, great and small, paralyze us and stunt our growth. The only way to overcome these fears is to “just do it.” Just walk across the tightrope, just take that test, just talk to that person, just send that email, just ask that question, just do it.
We all owe it to ourselves to receive closure to our questions and the “what-ifs” that haunt us. Through these confrontations, we challenge previous notions of ourselves and prove to ourselves that we are made of so much more than we think we are. Encouraged by my successful crossing of the tightrope, I comfortably hopped across swinging wooden bridges and climbed more ladders, but this newfound ease and comfort were soon brought to a halt by a sign that read “Decision Point: Extreme or Easy.” I had to make a choice. Given my initial fear of crossing a tightrope, I was inclined to take the easy route and continue the comfortable progress towards completing the course but ultimately decided to take the “Extreme” course. I wanted to push myself: test my physical body and confront both my physical and mental weaknesses. Mustering up what little courage I had, I embarked on the next leg of my journey.
Facing a row of disconnected wooden logs and a series of thin metal hoops, I felt my legs wobble as I made several uncertain steps and my arms threaten to completely give out. However, as I completed each portion of the extreme course, I felt a burgeoning confidence steady my shaky steps. The culmination of this newfound confidence and courage manifested itself when I decided to try the aptly named “Tarzan Swing” which entailed jumping off of a platform with only a rope and swinging into a large rope net. Watching the scenery whiz by and then colliding into a rope net was an exhilarating experience, but in order to complete the course, I needed to climb up said rope net. As I latched onto the rope and scrambled to find some footing and begin my ascent up the rope, I felt my arms give out and my legs wobbly and unsteady. Even with the encouragement and advice of my friends, no matter how hard I tried to regain my balance or make incremental progress up the rope, my body would not obey. With each passing second, I felt my grip on the rope loosen, and my fear of falling set in. Out of desperation, I called out for help and soon help was on the way: I was clipped onto another pulley and soon I was being pulled up towards the landing platform.
As I was being hoisted into the air, I felt nothing but embarrassment and disappointment in myself. My inability to scale a rope ladder on my own represented so much more than my lack of upper body strength but triggered the insecurities that have plagued me all my life. How could I make it this far and not complete the course on my own? Why am I so weak? Why do I always have to depend on others to help me? Why am I so incompetent? Once I found stable footing on the landing platform, disconnected myself from the assistance pulley system, and resumed my journey along the course, I replayed these questions in my head over and over. However, instead of spiraling into a pit of despair, I am lifted up by the encouraging phrases from my peers and my own pride at completing a portion of the course. The insecurities are soon drowned out by laughter, happy memories, and emotions. With each positive thought, I climb higher and higher into the sky and arrive at the very last zipline, the zipline that will bring me back down to the forest floor and reunite me with my peers. Taking one last panoramic view of the ropes course and the lush forest, I take a deep breath and smile. One, two, three…Harness? Check. Carabiner? Check… one, two three… here we GO!
Vivian Apple, Huang Fellow ’26
Vivian Apple is a freshman from Fort Smith, Arkansas who is interested in pursuing a double major in Chemistry with a concentration in physical chemistry and Asia and Middle Eastern Studies with a concentration in Chinese.