When I was five years old, I took swimming lessons at the local college pool. After weeks and weeks of swimming in the safe shallow end of the half-Olympic sized pool, it was time to venture out into the dark abyss known as…the deep end. I was scared. Granted, how could I not be? There could be sharks and giant squids lurking in the briny deep! I patiently waited as my fellow seafarers to make the journey. Then, it was my turn to swim..err..doggy paddle…my way towards the deep end. I took a deep breath and started swimming.
I was doing it! I vividly remember looking up at the pool deck, seeing my Mom in the crowd of parents, and making some sort of exclaimed yelp. I was pumped! I HAD CONQUERED THE DEEP END!
Sadly, this was the most daring feat of Nathan MacDonald as a minor.
For most of my life, I was what you would call…a scaredy cat. I didn’t like heights, I didn’t like getting hit in football, I didn’t even like sliding in baseball because I thought it might hurt. I didn’t take chances with my physical self. (Emotionally, I was a wrecking ball of silliness and attention grabbing.)
When I was in 7th grade, my class took a field trip to a ropes course. Now like I’ve said before, I weigh less right now than I did back then. I was awkward and chubby. So when it was my turn to do the trust fall, and have all my classmates catch me, I froze and adamantly said no. As the day progressed, I slowly began to muster up the courage to get on the course. At that point, everyone else had tried it except for me. When I went to climb up, the guide asked for another adult to help support her. You know, in case I fell off and, thanks to the science of a pulley system, pulled her up as I crashed to the ground. After I watched her ask for assistance, I slowly and sheepishly climbed back down.
Even though this episode happened about 14 years ago, I still remember how my weight took both my confidence and my fears hostage. At times, I still get uncomfortable and uneasy when I am confronted with a something like heights. Like last Monday.
I’m only half joking in this photo….
Photo credit: The Amazing Laura Osteen
So I work in a pretty awesome office with an even more awesome boss. When I heard that our office was invited to try out the new challenge course at FSU’s Rez, I was excited but slightly terrified at the same time. I figured “well, the Rez is gorgeous. And they’re going to need a photographer….” so I decided to go.
When it was time to put on a harness and go over the safety instructions , I started to panic. Really panic. I started to fumble around with the equipment and go through swings of making weird jokes and comments to being deathly silent. At this point, I felt like I was already behind everyone else. Then, my harness didn’t fit and I had to get a bigger one. So at this point, not only am I behind everyone else, I’m having to get special help. My fears and feelings from that experience in the 7th grade started to creep back up.
After a few more instructions, it was go time. I had already told everyone that I was going to stay on the ground…where it was safe. When it was our groups turn to climb up the webbing to first platform, I said “screw it. Let’s do this.” and I went up. I didn’t over analyze it. I just went for it.
Our first obstacle.
Photo credit: Joe Deer
The first obstacle was about 20 feet of the ground. I kept looking down and kept thinking “Welp. Time to die.” Then, like Indiana Jones, I took a step out on to the wire. “Okay…this isn’t so bad,” I said. “Actually, this might be…fun?” I got across without any problems. On to the next one!
On the next obstacle, I tried to step on a little unstable piece of wood that was a part of a shortcut to get to the other side. I tried to step on it…and I fell. But because of the multiple safety mechanisms within the course, I was fine. I pulled myself up and kept going. From them on…I was fearless. I finally knew the consequences of my failure and it was recoverable. So like my voyage to the deep end, I kept going.
The final obstacle of the day for me.
Photo Credit: Joe Deer
My classic “Silently Screaming” face.
Photo credit: Joe Deer
When we reached the last obstacle of the lower level of the course, I figured I had done enough for the day and called it good. As I was climbing down to the ground, I felt elated. I had broken my own mold. Even after years of testing my body and my limits during this weight loss journey, I still have fears of failure that I haven’t conquered. I still feel weird in the gym so I sometimes run instead because I’m better at it and I avoid playing some competitive sports because I don’t like letting my team down. But like that first step on to the wire, it’s sometimes scary to push yourself out of your comfort zone. But when you do, you can unlock your full potential.