AN Essay Contest HOSTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
DOTDASH MEREDITH & REAL SIMPLE
14 Girls Write Now mentees share mini- and mega-moments of clarity in these personal essays.
My Way Up
By Mengnan Lin
My body trembled uncontrollably. My left hand grabbed the handhold so hard that it became numb. I took a deep breath and looked up.
I pushed off with my feet and reached high with my right hand to the next handhold. It was within reach, but felt miles away at the same time. At the moment I jumped, time slowed to a crawl. I saw my fingertips reach the edge of the hold but then quickly slide off. Then, out of energy, my other hand also slipped off the hold, and I started to fall from the wall. I could hear the screams of my friends below. I closed my eyes and squeezed the thin climbing rope in front of me with all my strength.
This is not a great first time, I thought to myself.
My experienced belayer secured me immediately the next second I fell. My body suddenly stopped in mid air, and I trembled even more.
“Are you okay?” My friend yelled from the ground. I opened my eyes and looked down, then I nodded with a slight smile. “Are you sure? You can come down and rest for a moment if you want.”
I turned my head and stared at the top of the route. “It’s okay,” I said. “I am not getting down.”
My passion for rock climbing came as a surprise for me. Thinking about having to get sweaty, compete against others, or get injured made me want to retreat into my shell like a terrified turtle. Also, I couldn’t confront my childhood trauma that caused my acrophobia. The scene of the six-year-old me accidentally missing a step and rolling down the stairs in despair has replayed in my mind every time when I have to be in a higher setting. The wave of fear and insecurity submerged me immediately and left me breathless.
Therefore, I was totally opposed when one of my high school teachers encouraged my friends and I to join a local climbing program called Young Women Who Crush, but my friends pried me out of my shell to join them. When I entered the climbing gym with my friends for the very first time, I saw these climbers beaming with joy while using all their energy to make a big dynamic move. My pulse raced. I could see the light inside everyone’s eyes and the ambition to break self-limits and get to the top. “And you are always with a partner to belay you and encourage you,” I whispered to my friend with all my courage and excitement, “Maybe… I can also try?”
Back on my climb, I shook my hands to get the blood flowing and then got back to the wall. I can do it. I can jump high and reach high. I just need to trust my legs a little more. Taking a deep breath, I moved myself into a better position.
“You got this!” My friends yelled from the ground. With the strong power they passed on me, I again stared at the handhold with confidence and jumped with my left leg. I captured the handhold tight.
When I finally accepted the truth of me finishing a 5.7-level route as a first-time climber, it was a complex mix of feelings: astonishment, disbelief, hopefulness, excitement, exhaustion and, most of all, satisfaction. The joy of clearing steps toward my goal is unparalleled in all experiences. Rock climbing helps me realize that I am capable of beating all the “impossibles.”
My Simple Realization: An Essay Contest & Story Collection
14 Girls Write Now mentees share mini- and mega-moments of clarity in these personal essays. This contest was produced in partnership with Dotdash Meredith and the team at Real Simple as part of the SeeHer Initiative.
Mengnan Lin is a young artist, playwright and storyteller who uses art and writing as her two platforms to bring light to the unspoken sides of the "minorities" world. Growing up in a small town in Fujian, China, and then later immigrating to Queens, NY, Mengnan is a "citizen" of many places. All her experiences engaging with diverse communities give her incredible perspectives on distinct ways of discovering, expressing and refounding our identity. Mengnan aims to continue to speak up and advocate for the unvoiced communities through her words and artworks.