College is without a doubt an amazing learning experience. It’s an opportunity to push ourselves to try new things and to go way beyond our comfort zone. It is a place where we can grow and flourish as people, but only if we allow ourselves to open up to all the new and daunting experiences. Keeping that in mind, we have to remember not to let fear or doubt hold us back in any way. All the missed opportunities and the what ifs in life will only continue to pile up if we let that fear or doubt keep us glued to the sidelines. 

I learned these lessons when I started climbing at the Rock at the Student Recreation Center (SRC). In the beginning I was hesitant to jump on the boulder; there was after all an undoubtable aspect of fear involved. I didn’t want to fall and hurt myself in any way and I definitely didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the more experienced climbers. I was new and inexperienced. When I climbed, I felt uncomfortable, awkward and out of place. I was convinced that everyone was mocking me and laughing at me in their head, which in turn just embarrassed me even further.

These negative thoughts and feelings were crushing. It could have been really easy to just give in to those feelings and give up on rock climbing all together. It was just a hobby at the time and its impact on my life was far from monumental; looking back now, I’m so glad that I refused to give up. College, after all, is one big tipping point in our lives — it’s where we start stepping out of what we know and instead open ourselves up to the unknown. But admittedly, leaving our comfort zones can be a paralyzing choice; I mean, why would we willingly discomfort ourselves?

Here’s the answer I can give: there can always be something better for us out there, we just have to go and find it. Rock climbing has opened up a whole new world for me. It has given me the opportunity to explore and climb in breathtakingly beautiful national parks. I’ve also learned to push myself both mentally and physically in order to succeed in this sport. You will fall, there is no avoiding that, and overcoming that fear of falling can be difficult, but in the end it ultimately taught me how to be brave and face my fears, both on the rock and off.

What’s more is that we don’t have to go through this process alone. Having a strong support system can make a world’s difference and it’s one of the main reasons why I never stopped climbing. Through my support system of friends, climbing partners and gym staff, I was able to stay motivated, encouraged and excited about this sport. Trying new things doesn’t mean flying solo. If you let yourself open up to others, they will happily lend a hand. Because of that I was able to gain confidence and fall in love with rock climbing.

If you’re interested in giving the sport a try, the Rock at the SRC is a great place for curious beginners. Unlike other sports on campus, you don’t need to sign up beforehand or be a part of any team. Just show up and everything is provided for; the chalk, shoes, harnesses and instructors are all there. As I kept attending I discovered why rock climbing had really left its mark on me: it was the people. The environment that was created was not one focused on competition but rather of togetherness. It was an open sport that didn’t reject anyone. And through the community that was fostered here, I was able to meet like-minded people who shared my passion for attacking the cliff face.

There are so many things that I learned from this experience, like applying for jobs I was once hesitant about or taking daunting classes that sparked my interest or even applying to be a contributing writer for The Highlander newspaper! My experience with rock climbing has inspired me to go after the things in life that intrigue me and to stop worrying about everything that used to hold me back. I never thought that I would be where I am now, doing something that I truly love. It’s a bit crazy how that one seemingly listless thought, “Maybe I’ll try rock climbing,” would end up having such a strong impact on my life. It can be really intimidating to try something new, but never forget that the outcome may be incomprehensibly amazing.