Amazing Kids! Magazine

Rise Above

By Emma Lundeberg, grade 8, Ohio


I remember the time when we moved into our new house in Terrace Park and there was a balcony that looked over our family room. The thought of fear turned over and over in my mind until it packed together in the front of my brain and sat there like a big snowball freezing my brain. The seven-foot difference between me and the ground was nothing compared to the 200-foot drop I could have fallen down and hit the rainforest dirt while ziplining in Costa Rica. Currently, my sleepy eyes strained at daylight piercing the air and sifting through the clouds. The humid air clung to my body, and my hair frizzed up higher than the Arenal volcano right next to our resort in Costa Rica. My nine-year-old body withered in the heat as we climbed into the shuttle bus taking us on our adventures today.

My dad is a chiropractor, and he had a big week-long work trip in Costa Rica, so he brought us along. As we climbed into the stinky shuttle bus that belonged to the Hot Springs Resort, one of two resorts we stayed at, the Costa Rican bus driver greeted us in his thick accent. “Buenos dias, where will we be going today?” Suddenly, my dad turned to me and my three siblings, and we all took a vote. I voted for going to the zoo where you can hold sloths and toucans, but my older siblings, Tyler and Megan, voted for ziplining. As soon as Tyler raised his hand, my four-year-old sister, Madeline, who always followed my brother, raised her little arm and stuttered that she wanted to go ziplining, too. However, she and my mom were staying back at the hotel, so I don’t know why she even got to vote. I rolled my eyes and shut my mouth in frustration the whole ride into the rainforest and to a little shack with equipment lying everywhere. After a while, we clambered out of the bus one by one, shoving each other to get out of the gasoline smells wafting through the shuttle. Soon after, the driver parked his bus by a huge tree, put his hat over his head with his feet propped up on the dashboard, and took a nap after a 45-minute ride with my crazy family. Two employees greeted us and welcomed us, but all I could hear was the beating of my heart as I looked up at a big, metal staircase leading into the abyss of the rainforest going as high as I could see. Immediately, the female employee strapped me into my harness after placing a helmet snugly on my head, then strapping it under my chin. Right after, she clipped a metal wire onto my harness, then made me hold it until she attached me to a long, thick wire rising over my head a few feet to it. She also gave me a leather glove that I had to pull down on the wire with to stop myself near the end.

As we climbed, I was behind Megan and Tyler with my dad behind me. We all ascended the staircase roughly and waiting in anticipation to finally reach the top, fear flooding through my body the whole way up. After 5 to 10 minutes of climbing, we reached a wooden platform with a tree emerging out the top of it and extending under it. On the platform, we had to guide the section connecting us to the wire we would be ziplining on, the trolley, in a circle of even thicker wire hugging the tree so that we didn’t fall. I took in all of my surroundings in astonishment until my tarnished gym shoes got caught on one of the connecting floorboards. My heart sped up, and my pulse quickened. As soon as I felt my shoe stub on the floorboard, I could feel the blood drain out of my face. My knees collapsed and folded together like a perfect piece of origami. I could just picture the pain of my knees coming on impact with the splintery wood, and it made me close my eyes as the idea kept imprinting itself in my skull. However, they didn’t come in impact with anything because of the harness stopping me. Subsequently, I exhaled with relief and used what muscles I had to pull myself up again. My father looked at me in that “oh, clumsy Emma fell again” type of way but with genuine concern this time. It’s usually concern that I would break something, but I couldn’t break anything up here. So, I thought, Why was he so worried? I didn’t understand until I gazed downwards off the side of the platform; then I definitely understood. In an instant, I could see the bus that looked the size of an ant and how I hovered over the top of the huge tree it was parked next to. I could feel my eyes sink back inside of my head in an attempt to un-see what was now permanently branded into my brain. Wow, we are up really high, I thought over and over again. The balcony at our house suddenly seemed like a way better option now.

Instantly, my stomach tumbled over and over again, turning my intestines in double knots and triple knots ten times the size of my shoelaces. Then the instructor spoke, “Okay, everyone, this is the other option besides ziplining. To your right is the hanging bridge, which goes downwards and will bring you back to the meeting spot in about 20 to 30 minutes. At the end you will have the option of walking down the stairs or doing a mini zipline course into the grass.” As he continued talking, I kept thinking about how I could go on the lower bridge and zipline at the end and—technically—still zipline. Or I could be brave, face my fear of heights, and go ziplining with everyone else. While he talked, I weighed the options carefully until I saw my brother sliding off into the distance. I could see the smile on my face and wanted that. My father then inquired, “What do you want to do?” High, we are up really high, I kept telling myself. I could fall; I could panic halfway there. I could stop myself too early and get stuck. I probably won’t die, but I’m not ruling out that possibility. These thoughts ran through my mind over and over again, like a tape on a continuous loop. I didn’t have time to respond as I hooked myself up to the wire, asked the instructor if I could go, and jumped in Tyler’s direction before I changed my mind.

I felt like my body was in slow motion. As I flew, I felt like the world was frozen. I didn’t dare look down as I seemed to touch the clouds and glide across the span of the world. My fear of heights completely disappeared for one minute. I could feel the heat radiating off the wire as the trolley that attached me to the wire kept rubbing against it. I felt free as my hair flew behind me in the wind, and I felt it fluttering against my neck. Before long, my pulse quickened as the adrenaline pumped through my body. My eyes widened as I neared the end. Quickly, I stretched my arm out and pulled down with all my strength on the wire with my leather glove. The scratching noise erupting from the contact made my eardrums implode. At last, the ending platform got closer and closer, and the wire got shorter and shorter, as my speed got slower and slower, as the platform got nearer and nearer. The dirty, hot leather glove made me come to a screeching halt, and I came upon the platform like my hand was on fire. I didn’t notice I was shaking until the instructor grabbed my hand to help me around the tree and to the start of the next course. I kept flashing back to the memory of my flying through the air how free and relaxed I was. I’m not regretting my decision to go ziplining instead of going on the hanging bridge. I want that feeling of no-regret and freedom again. This time maybe I’ll have the guts to look down.

For the second time, I flew in the air as I wrapped up in my little ball and hugged my lower body. I closed my eyes and slowly scraped my arms from their position and reached them outwards. They tingled with the air rushing past them. They felt detached from my body and my nerves buzzed with excitement. Almost as soon as I felt that freedom and relaxation again, I felt a blistering pain of my forearm rubbing against the wire. In that moment, I realized I was deathly close to the edge. I packed myself together and clutched my forearm. I looked down, and fear rushed over me and sat in the front of my brain once again.

The balcony and the rainforest floor and the bus the size of an ant rushed through my mind in a blur. Right after, I slowed myself down with the throbbing pain still in my arm and tears starting to cloud my vision. I arrived at the platform with not just my hand and arm shaking, but my whole body. I thought I was over my fear of heights, but I guess I wasn’t. I can overcome it, but I have to work at it. I completed the course with my fear still there, but from that moment on, I knew I could overcome it. I will never forget that moment I flew in the air and touched the clouds, but not as much as remembering how the wind rushing past me blew my fears up to the surface so that I could begin to face and overcome them. Now I know one experience can’t change who you are or what you’re afraid of: You can only do that yourself if you set your mind to it and work for it.