Krasnoyarsk Stolby - National Reserve (photo source and more photos)
Write about fear you experienced (or are experiencing now). It can be a situation from your life, a fear of heights, of dogs, of closed small rooms or clowns… or a fear of being yourself, doing what you want to do, expressing yourself. Does your fear have a face, a voice, a smell, physical presence? Is it an abstract blob? How does it make you feel when you experience it? How does it make you feel when you look back at it? If it’s a fear you overcame, how did it happen?
“It’s your own fault.”
Katerina’s heart sank. Someone who she considered her friend said these words as though they were commonplace.
She felt like she lost the ground under her feet. Suddenly the vivid memories of her experience climbing rocks appeared in front of her. They were not those fake rocks in a gym where you are secured by a rope with one click of a protective lock, and an experienced instructor watches your every step and can catch you in case anything unexpected happens. And frankly, what unexpected can happen to you when you are in a warm and dry gym, under a roof, learning how to climb fake rocks, putting your feet not on sharp and slippery stone, but on special reliefs attached to the climbing wall, with a professional rope around your waist, and an instructor who got all sorts of certificates to watch your every step, to teach you the safest ways to get up and, most importantly, to get down? She supposed there still was a risk of injury, but not such a big risk.
Katerina did not have an instructor back then, in her youth, when a group of cheerful young men offered them to get up the tall rocks in the mountains where she was hiking with her girlfriend. It was a sunny day in July, they all were young, cute and fearless.
“Have you ever climbed before?”
“I didn’t,” said her friend.
“I did,” said Katerina.
She wasn’t lying. She climbed a few easy rocks before, and these handsome athletic men said that the rock they would be bringing them to was an easy one – a perfect rock for rookies.
“I’m a rooky,” she thought, and her sense of adventure took over.
The first steps were nothing to worry about. They climbed up and told each other jokes. Nobody felt like they needed a safety rope or special shoes – they were all young, they were all fearless. The fear started kicking in somewhere after they passed the middle of the rock, and she looked down. That was a mistake – but of course, she did not know that. People were buzzing around the base of the rock she was on, and seemed like small insects from up here. She had no idea how far her feet were from the ground. She felt the fear in her calves, where she always had this uneasy feeling.
“I can’t go up, not anymore,” she said.
The lighthearted conversation suddenly ended. She was not only unable to tell jokes, she was unable to listen to them. The fear that she would fall, the possible pain of hitting the rocks, the risk of losing her life – everything rushed right up to her throat, and she could barely breathe.
One of the men realized that moment that she had fear of heights – something she did not know about herself before that day. He quickly moved along the narrow ledge towards her, told her to not look down and only put her feet on his hands. Slowly, step by step, being the live equivalent of those artificial climbing wall reliefs, he took her down. That way down seemed endless to her. Her back felt cold and sweaty. But what surprised her the most was that that helpless panicky state disappeared the moment her feet were on the ground. She felt herself again, she could joke and laugh again.
Katerina never looked back at that experience. She still loved hiking in the mountains and still loved climbing rocks – those which were easy even for small children, wide and flat rocks that did not have the word “danger” written all over them – the rocks which probably weren’t even considered as such by passionate rock climbers, professionals or amateurs. Never again did she try to climb the rocks which were apparently “for rookies”, well, maybe for rookies that got at least a class or two in rock climbing and knew that rock climbing is something they actually want to do in life. She was not that kind of rooky. None of that group ever reminded her about that experience, none of them ever made fun of her, none of them blamed her for what happened. Katerina was thankful for it. It was an experience to learn something about herself. Fortunately, it did not end with a tragedy, though it could have. She was safe and sound after all, and now knew more than she did before.