Henry David Thoreau said, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears; however measured or far away”.
And far away it is, nauseatingly far away, as I am stretching my neck backwards to see my fellow classmates and lots of kick-ass rockclimbers 20 meters above me. It seems like there’s a spiderman convention going on up there.
I am not up there, although I’m all geared up. I could if I would, but I can’t.
Me and heights don’t go all that well. I’m not phobic, I can change a lightbulb or paint a wall on small ladders, but anything higher then say, four to five meters feels physicly out of reach. Knees turn to pudding, hands start grabbing on to things and my voice starts to sound …well…increasingly worried.
I used to joke to my scottish friend Rona that we dutch are not geneticly equiped for anything higher then the average house. That we get dizzy spells if we get too high above sealevel. And I think I believed that wasn’t even such a bad theory. I mean, how can we flatlanders develop that part of our brain if we never get higher then our own balcony. After so many centuries and generations surely that must have had some effect on our ability to deal with the visual information of depth…shouldn’t it?
But it isn’t true, I realise quickly as I am standing in a hall for indoor rockclimbing. Not true at all.
Maybe it was because of this great theory I had, that I thought that aspiring to do some indoor rockclimbing, you know, for fun… and at the same time being afraid of heights was not such a weird idea at all. Surely I would not be the only one!
So, when all of my 13 new classmates in the introduction-course happily scurried up the twenty meter high vertical climbing wall, in their very first go at it, I finally started feeling a littly dishearted.
So this idea might have been a little foolish…
This idea might have been slightly insane….
In ten minutes I go from feeling excited, curieus and adventureous to feeling ridiculous and very out of place. And I start to make many apoligetic jokes to the thirteen superhero’s in the making, about dumb, silly scared ol’ me. Because I cannot, for the life of me, convince myself to make one more move upwards when I get higher up then five meter. And that is with my HEAD at five meter, so my feet have just passed the three meter mark. Which on a wall this size seems pretty pointless.
So there I am, trying to look sort of nonchalant in all this gear when standing on the ground, but feeling ever so small and frankly, a little lost. I feel myself getting sucked into the emotional vortex of not measuring up, being the weakling of the group. I am a joke. What the hell was I thinking in the first place? I want to cry like a girl. Can I go now?
But then I remember my personal superhero; dear brave wise uncle Henry Thoreau. I can choose to compare myself to everyone else there. I can choose not to.
In the corner of the centre there is a much lower wall to climb on. I think it’s for kids cause there’s a big yellow giraffe painted on there, but I choose to ignore that fact. I focus, I climb, I concentrate on the steps, I see the top and am almost able to reach it. Not today, but I can see myself doing that within a few more weeks maybe. When I get back to groundlevel I realise I actually had fun doing it!
Then I get tapped on the shoulder by a guy who has the typical and impressive appearance of an experienced climber; really muscular, but also really tight and skinny.
‘I was just like you when I started’ he says with a friendly smile, ‘I was terrified of heights. But I kept climbing in a way that felt comfortable to me. That is how I got to the high parts finally. You’ll be fine, just enjoy it!’
So up and up I go again, maybe even so far as six meters
Oh dear…is that the familiar beat of my own drum I hear in the distance?