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Fear of Heights

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Submitted By logancreed
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The Climb
I have this fear. It causes my legs to shake. I break out in a cold sweat. My heart starts beating a thousand miles an hour, and louder than a snare drum. I imagine my own funeral, then shrink back at the implications of where my thoughts are taking me. My stomach feels tight. My palms are clammy.
I am terrified of heights.
Of course, it’s not really a fear of being in a high place. Rather, it is the view of a long way to fall, of rocks far below me and no firm wall between me and the edge. Despite my fear, two months ago I somehow found myself climbing to a high place, while quaking inside and out. The ninth and tenth grade class had come along on a week long trip to Washington D.C. A place filled with so much history and culture. Our first stop on the trip was Gettysburg Pennsylvania. We were on the site looking at the battlefield where thousands of soldiers died in the most deadly battle of the Civil War.
It was a chilling experience, standing in the place where so many deaths occured. We took the van around the battlefield, stopping every once in awhile, getting out, and checking out some of the main attractions of the battlefield.
After eating our sack lunches within sight and sound of the spring, many of us wanted to make the climb up to a view tower that showed almost the entire battlefield from one spot. We knew others had done so on the previous trips, we had heard the stories. The first group said that it was the most amazing part of the Gettysburg trip. A few guys went first to test it out. It was 125 steps to the top. Each step creaked as the boys ascended the once grey stairs, now rusted in places from many years of exposure to the elements.
The climb ascended steeply above us. My sense of security is screamingly absent. There are guardrails, flimsy though I picture them. I can rely only on my own surefootedness—or lack thereof. Looming high to the sky, the creaky steel tower rose in a tiered manner.
My thoughts were interrupted by the shouting from my friend Selena. Peering up, I realize that my friends were already beginning to climb! My anxiety sky-rocketed as I watched them. Do I turn back? My whole being shouted, “Yes!” Will I regret it later? I really want to get to the top, but…
Questioning my own sanity, I decided at least to attempt the climb.
Consoling myself that my friend Meg would be right behind me, I shakily began the climb. Meg pushed me forward, and those above sent down words of encouragement.
The difficulties only increased from that point on, with scary spots and creaky steps. Though I knew I should not look down, I could not possibly ignore the long drop to the ground below. Just the thought of the drop made me panic. My heart pounded even faster than before, growing loud in my ears.
My friends kept right on climbing. But they did not forget me, offering more encouraging words.
The song “Amazing Grace” ran through my head as we began the third flight of stairs, Melody going first. I kept up a steady stream of chatter with Meg, my trembling voice betraying my fear. I was trying anything and everything to distract myself.
My group made it safely. I hesitated, unsure of my footing because I refused to look down. Picturing myself at the bottom of the stairs, bones broken and pain wracking my body, if I still lived from tumbling down.
“You can do it! I'm right here,” Meg called. She waited patiently, not pressuring me to hurry. She understood my fear of heights, as she had overcome her claustrophobia on the sixteen hour drive in to D.C.
As I took the next step of the stairs, I could see in the corner of my eye the concrete below. My foot slipped, and my heart jumped into my throat as the terror I had held in overcame me. I’m gonna fall! I inwardly shrieked.
It had been only a small slip. It took a few calming breaths, and some reassuring words from Meg to make my heart reposition itself where it belonged.
With no further mishaps, we eventually came to the last flight of stairs. I could see the top of my friends heads. Everyone was up there except Meg and I.
Around thirty more steps and I would be at the top, looking out on the battlefield that was described to me time, after time again. My legs were shaking underneath me, and I could hear how loud I was breathing.
“I’m coming down,” I warned, my voice unsteady. “I can’t do it.”
“Yes you can” answered Meg. “I got you.”
I knew I had to finish this.
Her assurances gave me the strength to go on. I trusted her wholeheartedly. She placed her hand on my back and inched me forward. I took those last steps with ease, and when my feet made contact with the solid concrete slab at the top, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. I could feel the fear draining out of me. I was dirty and sweaty, out of breath and tired. But none of it mattered. I was at the top.
“Yaaaaaaahhhh!” I yelled. I never felt so alive, and so thankful for that life.
The view at the top was pretty, but it wasn’t what I remembered most, it was the climb to the top, that made it the most beautiful. I wasn’t able to look straight down, for I was afraid that I might throw up. But I made it to the top, and it was something I had never imagined of doing. I was more proud of myself than ever before.

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