At Such Great Heights: A Lesson In Courage
Courage is the strangest thing.
Yesterday I went and hung out with some kids in the DTLA art's district. We got up to some shenanigans, one of which was finding ourselves on a studio roof and shooting (images) into that beautiful golden light over our city.
It was absolutely phenomenal. The view was breathtaking from such great heights, but of course, when we noticed the tower that would take us up another three stories no one objected. The ladder was thin and exposed on the outside of the cement frame, the rungs no bigger round than a marker. I had no hesitation as I slung my heavy leather bag over my shoulder and began my climb.
I was over halfway to the top when I experienced something altogether new for me. Crippling fear. Suddenly my stomach was in my mouth and I was unsure I could keep my hands tight around the thin, cold metal. Awareness hit me like a ton of bricks. There was no water below, no harness to catch me, and the chill in the breeze at that height did nothing to help my courage. My head started to spin, my legs began feeling more like jello than flesh and bone.
I yelled up to my friend and he advised me to just stay at the second level. I obliged. the view was stunning, but now, a day later, I can't stop thinking about it. I can't stop thinking about how I didn't go all the way. About how I let fear stop me. About how I had this perceived idea of who I was, brave and fearless, that was once again cyclically shattered. Am I brave? Am I courageous? Am I wild, though fear got the best of me?
I had a long conversation on the phone tonight with someone I deeply trust and respect, and though it had nothing to do with my climb the day before, he reminded me of all the things I've faced in my life. All the loss. All the fear. All the confusion. All the change, and I sit here now thinking about bravery and what that looks like; courage and how that plays out.
Yesterday I experienced fear of heights for the first time (and I've jumped off some pretty huge cliff faces/waterfalls)-- it was exhilarating and caused me to question myself, but tonight I realize a fear of climbing 6 stories into the sky does not change the fundamentals of who I am.
I am brave. I am strong.
and yes, I do want to go back and climb that stupid ladder, but not because if I don't I'm any less of those things, more so because I relish the challenge.