My challenge was looming above me. All I saw was this huge rock and all I felt was FEAR. I was never an athletic child and never participated in school sports so when my friends suggested we try rock-climbing, I said, "yeah, right"! As I approached my 50th birthday, something inside me opened up and I wanted to try new things. I wanted new experiences and to do things I never thought I could do. This feeling reminded me of the year I turned forty and decided to try skiing and parasailing. It was insanity, I thought, but I did it! Even though I started working out after having my four children, I didnít think I had the upper-body strength to get me up that rock. And what would I do assuming I did get up there? I couldnít possibly repel down! All my childhood fears came back.

I was afraid to do everything. I had low self-esteem growing up and thought I had conquered that, but here I was doubting myself once again. It didnít help that I noticed I was the oldest in the group. Talk about low self-esteem. The guides were encouraging though and the group was supportive. I tentatively put the gear on with my heart racing and my palms sweating. Now my adrenaline was really fired up for the challenge and I thought,"well, itís now or never." I made the mistake of asking how high the rock was. "Itís only three stories high," said the guide. All righty then!

Since my gear was on and my adrenaline pumping, I knew it was too late to turn back. I just couldnít let all these young women think I was a real wimp. I proceeded to climb and then realized I wasnít breathing. I was actually holding my breath. Okay, you have to breathe you dummy, so I stopped a couple of times just to breathe deeply. To my surprise, this calmed my nerves and I continued on with everyone cheering that I could do it. I stopped mid-point for a minute. I was tired. Then my climbing mate decided she changed her mind and wanted to go back. I told her she was more than half-way and couldnít stop now. I told her I would help her. So, I guided her and encouraged her up the mountain and then realized, I was now at the top too! WOW! What a feeling! I will never forget it. We screamed, we were so elated, and the group cheered. We stopped to take in the most beautiful view of the Catalina mountains and then started our descent. When I touched the ground and they unhooked my belt, I jumped in the air. I knew at that moment, as tears ran down my face, that I was strong, I was not afraid, and most importantly, that not even turning 50 was going to stop me now!

by Sherry Gipson