From a young age, I’ve never been proud of my upper body strength. I lost every arm wrestle I was ever in and climbing things was never my strong suit. I could only get to the first bar on the monkey bars and even wall climbing was a challenge.
But for the first time in my life, I was able to climb trees on Saturday.
Little did I expect that I’d learn a variety of things from this experience.
This opportunity was given to me when my cousin and a group of people from his program went to TreeGo. He invited me the week prior and I said yes with little knowledge of what it was.
If you were like me and never been to one, it’s basically an obstacle course in the woods.
You’ve got ladders, bridges, Tarzan ropes, and of course you have zip lines as well.
You’re strapped into a harness and every step of the way there are hooks to lock in place clamps that keep you secure along the way.
It was a great experience and something entirely new to me, but through that I learned a lot about myself and about concepts that I’m oh so familiar with.
I First Learned About Fear
Fear is a mentor that teaches us through harsh realities and events. I never expected myself to be fearful in a place where safety was quite prominent.
Regardless I struggled a lot in one of the first parts of the course that involved bridges. I got into my head a lot and as a result I panicked. Every step I took I was swinging about, nervous I’d wipe out.
I eventually did, falling on my ass, panting heavily, but also laughing.
Even though I managed to get through the first course out of the four before passing, I learned a lot from the experience.
The reason I got in my head so much was that the previous method I used to cross obstacles stopped working. I had to change my thinking which I oddly didn’t do. I tried to rely on the lifeline where my hooks were in as opposed to the ropes on the side.
At one point during the section I thought about giving up, but my cousin helped me along the way. Not to mention there was an employee there who gave me some good tips too, These two events, prompted me to move forward.
Fear is a harsh mentor to us all, telling us specific lessons that we must learn. And what fear taught me was to be adaptive.
But what I learned about fear in general wasn’t that it can teach one thing. Fear can also remind us too.
It was through those reminders that helped me along the way as I went through the course.
Then I Learned About Confidence
Without a doubt, I lacked confidence in my skills as a climber. Of course it got dramatically easier because it was wooden obstacles rather than physically climbing trees.
Regardless, it was a new experience for me that I never experienced as a child before.
In this sort of light it would make sense why I was afraid. Despite the fact that I’ve been in high up places before, it made sense that my fear wasn’t of height, but of great uncertainty.
I was several feet off the ground and even though I was safe, there was still that risk I could get hurt.
It made sense why fear took over, but there were also bursts of confidence as well. I was able to pull myself back onto the swinging bridge and take my time crossing it. Legs were still shaking, but I managed to get over it.
This has led me to believe that when our fear hits a certain point, we are given the chance to pick ourselves back up and come back immediately stronger.
Kind of like a burst of adrenaline when we get injured.
We are shaken to our core and in that moment we can either redeem ourselves, or double down on the emotion that controls us.
For me it would’ve been fear, but thanks to my cousin, I was able to pull back up and recover somewhat.
Thirdly Came Focus
With renewed confidence, I pushed myself forward and in the midst of it I applied things I already knew. From pep talks to a little bit of steady breathing, I went through the obstacles before me.
What I learned from focus itself was more of how it pairs with the world around us.
I normally relate to focus based on our ability to work. When we focus on certain tasks we concentrate better.
What was new to me was how focus comes into play when a certain emotion is dominating our mindset.
I noticed this a lot since my confident emotions focused on telling myself to take one step at a time. The focus was on the goal of getting to the end of the course.
Fear on the other hand I focused on a variety of things.
First was where I was and what I was doing. It was something certainly outside what I normally would do. At the same time I was also focusing on the things around me like the swinging obstacles.
But what’s even more fascinating (and obvious) is the longer we stay in that emotion, the more things occur.
For example, my fear took control especially after I tried to make the swinging stop. When my attempts failed, I panicked even more.
All the same, my confidence only grew further the closer I got to the goal. Because of this, I reminded myself to move forward and things that I should and shouldn’t do. I still panicked a bit, but I believe the actions would’ve been more serious if I wasn’t so fixated on the end goal.
Lastly I Learned Of Success
After getting through the entire first course, I called it quits. I didn’t feel defeated though. For a first time ever climbing trees, I feel I did an alright job with that.
That aspect is big for me for a few reasons.
True I do see success in the small steps that we take each time. I think that it’s important to see the success overall in what I was able to get through and achieve.
However even when your immediate expectations aren’t met, I think that it’s as important to see the results to be satisfactory and worthy of calling a success.
What I mean by this is that after I finished the first course, I made a slip of the tongue and undervalued what I had accomplished.
The truth is I wanted to do a little bit more. Perhaps even go through the entire course. I didn’t let myself go through that though. The bridges were a bit too much for me, my hands were swollen and my entire body ached as I was drenched in sweat.
And despite not hitting my expectations at all, I still feel compelled to call this a victory and a success.
I’ve been swinging back and forth on whether to try TreeGo again. From this experience, my body is still sore and those cuts are probably going to linger around for a bit.
At the same time, I want to apply what I learned for next time and see if I can get farther. Or at the very least handle myself better than I did this time around.
But the biggest thing that this experience has taught me is that there is more that we can learn from the things we are familiar with.
All it takes is an experience that puts those beliefs to the test.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon