It was a blistering hot midsummer afternoon when I arrived at Challenge Discovery in Richmond, Virginia. As I gazed across the field, I shrunk in terror from the height of the ropes course that stood in front of me. I am deathly afraid of heights and I have never done anything like this. Here goes nothing, I thought to myself. My facilitator, the Challenge Discovery staff member, must have noticed how terrified I was, because she made sure my teammates and I could trust each other and trust her before we even got near the climbing equipment.
As my facilitator and teammates neared the giant rope net, I placed myself in last place. I was embarrassed because I was scared, while everyone else was ecstatic to climb. The facilitator noticed that I seemed uneasy and suggested that nervous people should come to the middle to be surrounded by confident team members. This made me feel better. I knew someone was looking out for me instead of pointing me out for my “weakness.” Each step I took on the rope net made it sway more, making my anxiety build as I climbed higher and higher. I don’t even know how I put one hand and foot in front of the other, but before I knew it, I was securely clipped into the platform. I was sweating and my heart was racing. I hid behind the team so no one could see how much I was freaking out.
As soon as I caught my breath, the next challenge appeared right before my eyes: The Frankenstein Walk. Even though I knew I was safely clipped into the cables above, the thought of walking in the air across wooden platforms and cables took me to a whole new level. I can’t do this, I told myself. I told my facilitator I needed to get down from this ropes course, right now! She said I could if I wanted to, because we aren’t forced to do anything at Challenge Discovery. She also reminded me of a strategy she taught the team on the ground before we came up: Stop. Breathe. Challenge. Choose. She asked my whole team to do this together. We all stood still and let the breeze cool us off. We took a couple deep breaths, and then we looked at our challenge. We identified for ourselves what would be hard for us. And then we had to make a choice. I don’t know why, but I chose to keep going.
We all took a step off the platform and onto the wobbly cables. Our facilitator encouraged us to incorporate teamwork by holding onto each other as we crossed. I know I came here for teambuilding, but I couldn’t think of anything at that moment except, I hate this! Get me down! I simply held onto my ropes to cross alone. All of a sudden, my foot slipped on a cable, I lost my balance and fell. A scream came out of my mouth before I was caught one second later. I had only fallen a couple feet and was dangling in my harness! How embarrassing. I was almost crying. At this point I just wanted to get to the ground; I had had enough. Just as I was asking the facilitator to lower me to the ground, a team member I had never met before reached her arm to me. She told me to try putting my feet on the board she was on. I took her hand and she helped me up. Another team member was stabilizing her, allowing her to steady me. My breaths slowed and my heart stopped pounding so fast. This was the moment I realized I could do this, but I couldn’t do it alone. I learned the importance of a team, and how working together can help us get to know one another and show each individual what we’re capable of.
-Anonymous Challenge Discovery participant