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  • Stephanie Riley

To The Top

During my last year of college, I made the decision to start saying “yes” more often. I can’t quite place my finger on exactly what made me do it. Perhaps it was a combination of being tired of the monotony of school, working two jobs, and the end of a not-so-great relationship. Needless to say, I felt that it was a good time for some type of change. I decided that a healthy way to initiate this would be to start saying “yes” to things and situations I would have felt more comfortable saying “no” to. I was especially curious about the kind of situations and people a simple three letter word would lead me to, and so began my journey as a “yes gal”.

I started out on a small scale, simply choosing to agree to go to events or hanging out with groups of people I wouldn’t have normally found myself hanging out with. It was quickly proved to be a refreshing change of pace and instilled a new type of boldness in me. I’ve always been open to trying new things, but this time I was arms-wide-open to whatever was going to come my way. It was kind of wild to think that a simple change of perspective could so quickly turn my world upside down in the best way possible.

Over the course of the next several months, after putting this into practice I found myself seeking out new ventures in a way that was less of a conscious choice and more of an unconscious habit. For example, my college had a pretty impressive gym that opened during my freshman year. It was totally state-of-the-art with a huge pool, fancy studios for classes, a running track, four different free-weight areas, and a three-story rock wall. As someone who enjoyed being active, this gym quickly became one of my favorite places on campus. I utilized every facet of that gym over the course of my four years in school, all except for one -- the rock wall. The rock wall was at the very front of the gym, and I would literally walk past it every single time without even taking a double take. However, one day I stopped right in front of it, looked that wall up and down and decided I was going to climb it because I never had before. And so I did.

I’d like to say that on my first attempt I made it all the way to the top because of my natural athletic abilities and strength, however that was not the case nor the honest truth. I made it about halfway up the wall before making the terrifying realization that in order to come down I would eventually have to let go of the wall and repel backwards. This was not something I was prepared to do just yet, so I continued to keep climbing upwards with sweaty and trembling hands. Eventually I made it to the top and clung to the wall for dear life until my forearms gave out, forcing me to let go and be lowered back down.

My descent was not the most graceful, but I did manage to stick the landing. As my feet hit the ground a wave of emotions washed over me. I felt relieved, sweaty, and tired, but most of all I felt accomplished. I did the dang thing, and more importantly, I did the dang thing even though I was scared and had never done it before.

Recounting this story has made me realize that the thing that fueled me to the top of the rock wall was the same exact thing that had initially stopped me from even considering trying -- fear. Before I decided to start saying “yes” to all things new, scary, and uncomfortable, fear managed to keep me in a comfortable (borderline complacent) spot without me even really realizing it. However, in the same way, the tangible fear of falling off of the rock wall was so strong that it pushed me to keep climbing to the top.

Whether we realize it or not, fear on it’s own is an extremely strong force. It can so quickly and easily fuel the fire of personal doubt. It can prevent us from trying things that are good for us, and even get in the way of us finding things we didn’t realize we could actually be good at. On the flip side, using fear in a healthy way can push us towards new adventures, hobbies, and a positive perspective when it comes to personal growth. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether you are going to let fear fuel you or rule you. I hope you choose fuel, because the view at the top never gets old.

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