Amazing Kids! Magazine

Climbing My Fears

By Caie Kelley, Age 15, California


Must. Keep. Going. My bone-white hands gripped the lichen-infested rock. Tiny beads of sweat fell from my forehead and onto my new, “Kelley Family Reunion 2008, Acadia National Park” oversized T-shirt. Why hadn’t I opted for the easy car ride up? My family and I were rock climbing without harnesses in Maine. We had the choice either to drive up one side of the mountain or scale the other, and I had chosen to climb. I did it to prove a point: I was athletic, despite all my cousins’ teasing, and could handle any challenge. Right now, however, that driving motivation had tumbled down the trail, along with my initial energy.

“Remember, you can always turn around!” smirked my cousin Brian, his eyebrows raised at my tired stance and disheveled, damp hair. As an avid football player and sports fan, he had no problem jumping between the rocks and mounting each step. Annoyed, I rolled my eyes. I realized now how important exercise was. At home, my rare and weak attempts at fitness weren’t a problem. Carpooling, the abundance of ready-to-help moms, and a small town meant that setting my foot to pavement was rare. Yet here, I regretted my lazy attitude. Here, I couldn’t just turn to the nearest minivan for transportation. I cast a look behind me. It was not too late to turn back, yet giving up now would be admitting defeat, something nobody would ever let me forget.

“I’m fine!” I huffed. Yet even as I spoke, indecision sliced through me. Should I continue on?

Up above, large black birds “caw-cawed,” mocking me in my slow ascent. A crowded party of swaying trees occupied the lower area of Cadillac Mountain, waltzing through the afternoon. Their arms were fully extended and immersed in playful communication. The forest contrasted well with the smiling sky, but not to my mood.

“C’mon, Caie, we are just going to take it step by step!” my sister, Caiseen, encouraged, “Once you climb this rock, there will be a flat surface where you can rest!” No! If I fall I will die! shrieked my brain. I was torn. Despite my desire for the contrary, I wasn’t a hiker or an athlete. During kickball and soccer games, I was always one of the last kids chosen. I liked it that way; there were no expectations for my performance on the field or any notions that I was a game-changing player. Today, giving up seemed so easy. All I’d have to do was step down, call my parents, and it’d be over. But if I wanted to reach the top, it had to be all on my own, and it started with taking a strong step forward.

Finally, I persisted. Determination swam through my blood, drowning the fear residing inside it.

“That’s right, you big old mountain.” I said, “I am going to climb you, all the way to the end.” The couple next to me turned around and stared. Their eyes seemed to question, why is that strange sweaty girl muttering to herself again? Is she okay? I ignored them. My hands were shaking as I clutched a bell-shaped groove and secured my feet to the rut below me. Fear of falling, fear of plunging to my death terrorized my movements and made them uncoordinated and strained. My stomach was knotted, my breathing was shallow, and my teeth slammed together in tight snaps. One hand up, adjust footing. Other hand up, adjust footing. Every step, every blink of the eye was tense and controlled. One, two, three, rest. Inch by inch, one encouraging thought after another, I snaked my way up the mountain.

Two hours later, I found myself gazing not at barren rock, but at cloudless sky. In shock, I glanced around. No longer did I find myself clenching dry rock and sand, but standing, empty-handed, on a paved pathway that lead to a gift shop and congested parking lot. I was done! Exuberance, pure and sweet, washed through my veins. Yes! Despite the scoffing voices of my cousin and my brain, I had reached the summit. I had gone, up, up, up, until I was finished. Deeper than my happiness, however, was the feeling that something had changed. I had learned that exercise should be a vital part of my life. Sure, I wasn’t the first of my family to reach the summit. I would never be the first individual chosen for kickball or soccer. Yet that shouldn’t be an excuse not to participate. I didn’t have to accept a free ride from a helping mother; a nice jog home would usher some fresh air into my lungs and lift my spirits. What was key about my climb was not just that it was over, though I was certainly glad to be done, but that I had learned the importance of persistence. Not once had I turned around, or faltered in my decision once I made it. The idea of never giving up had been missing when I had attempted new activities before. It was why exercise and sports had never spoken to me. Now, my fear of climbing had faded. I had been offered an opportunity this morning, and in accepting the challenge, the mountain had taught me an important value. In time, I would become an athlete, a swimmer, with the understanding that persistent exercise leads to exuberance, particularly after a long struggle. For now, the sun, quiet and all- knowing, set in the distance. Good job my friend, it seemed to whisper, and good day.