12 Year-Old Sarah Katz’s Take on Why…
Sarah Katz 3/18/15
Memoir Mrs. P LA period 4
The Ropes Course
Why was I doing this? I would always ask myself this every time I went on the
ropes course at camp. Never would I understand why I would be drawn to something as
intimidating as the ropes course, as I am not exactly adventurous or good with heights.
Normally I’d go for something having to do with crafts, or swimming, or playing a ukulele
on the deck of the main hall. Yet, there I was, climbing up the trunk of a huge tree with a
helmet on my head and a harness across my waist.
That tree was the tallest section of the ropes course. Standing about 35 feet high,
it had what looked like small metal horseshoes randomly strewn up one side, reminding
me of the scales of a fish. The hooks were arranged haphazardly, but I tried hard to
reject the thought that it might not be safe. A counselor tightened my harness as I
looked down at it and struggled to make sense of the web of fabric woven around my
shorts. Then she walked over to the tree, wood chips crunching beneath her feet, and
retrieved a rope suspended from somewhere at the top of all the hooks, which was
difficult to locate as the structure of the tree was concealed by a mass of leaves. Usually
the counselors came back with a metal clasp to attach to the metal hook on the
harness. However, when she came back, only the rope was looped through the hook on
my harness. I gulped down a lump of uneasiness as she made a fancy knot with the
rope. She assured me that it would be strong and secure enough to endure anyone’s
weight. Still, as I made my first steps up the tree, I could not help thinking of the knot in
my harness becoming the equivalent of the untied shoelaces of my sneakers.
Climbing up the first few feet of the tree, sweat collected on my hands, making
my grip on the hooks feel awkward and ungraceful. I felt exasperated at the fact that
about half of the hooks were jammed too deep into the trunk of the tree, therefore
creating a very narrow area for me to place my hand or foot. Often there were also vast
gaps between the hooks, causing difficulty for me to advance upwards from my foot,
and also a clumsy transition as the counselor would try helping me along by pulling up
the rope connected to my harness. “You’re doing great,” the counselor would shout up
at me every time I looked nervously downwards.
Even though the climb was laborious with my sweaty, shaky body, the most
challenging part was dealing with my thoughts and worries. The whole time I was
questioning the facts that the knot in the rope was strong, the rope itself was thick
enough to take my weight, and the tree trunk was definitely not going to snap like a twig.
However, I could not be more frustrated that my mind maintained a steady, stern voice
telling me that this was at the edge of my comfort zone, and I needed to turn back or
something awful would happen. What could happen, though? No matter how many
times I worried about the truth in it, deep down I knew something awful was obviously
not going to happen. However, my mind kept attacking me, saying “You’re terrified,
you’re terrified.” I thought “Of course I’m terrified!” but I wanted to see how high I would
dare go, not just physically, but mentally. And so I got together what remained of my
courage, shoved my worries down, and kept going.
If I went higher, when I got down, I would be prouder. So why not get something
better to brag about? I asked myself. With this point in my mind instead of my concerns,
I clung onto as much of each hook as I could, and flung myself up across the gaps
where there were no hooks. Proud that I was succeeding in ignoring my worries, which
almost never happens, I felt lighter and freer than I was before. And then, finally, I had
come to the last hook. I heard the counselor shout a cheer from the ground as I turned
around in my harness to view the rest of the camp through the leaves. Beaming with
pride and relief, I enjoyed the ride down the trunk as the counselor lowered me. I took
off my helmet and harness and it was as though my legs were jello when they were on
the ground again. Feeling like a complete weirdo, I ran out of the ropes course on
wobbly legs with a goofy grin across my face, and as I ran, I thought about my question
again. Why was I doing this? And for the first time, I found an answer: to test my limits.