Cochise Stronghold, Arizona | January 17, 2016 | 4:18pm
"Marley, you have to start climbing. It's such a good workout - but it's FUN! Going to the gym is boring - climbing is awesome."
I look at Jasmina, her eyes are lit up as they are every time she gets excited about something.
"Yeah, I know," I say lamely, muttering about how climbing equipment is expensive and going to the climbing gym is time consuming. "I like running because I can just go do it. I don't have to load a bunch of equipment into my car and drive somewhere. I can just run out my front door."
All that is true, but the real reason I don't want to join her at the climbing gym is I know I won't be very good at it. I don't have a lot of upper body strength. I can't even do a pull-up. And I have no idea what goes into proper climbing technique. If I go to a climbing gym, I'll make a fool of myself.
That was my mindset in 2012. Fast-forward to January of 2016, and I'm hanging off a rock wall in southern Arizona. I focus on my hands - my chalky fingers gripping tiny indentations in sandy red rock - because that's easier than looking 60 feet down.
"Birdie!" I yell, refusing to look down.
"You're so strong Marley! You've got this." Jasmina's voice is confident and comforting. "There's a hold just above your left hand."
I stare at my left hand and will it to move. My right leg is trembling. I'm so afraid my foot is going to slip off the tiny sliver of protruding rock when I reach for the hold. I try to focus on what Jenny told me earlier in the day. Trust your feet. I reach for the hold and slide my foot up - the rubbery sole of my climbing shoe does not slip. A few minutes later I reach the anchor, and finally look down.
I've heard that a fear of heights is something all humans possess. Supposedly it's a biological trait key to survival. Prehistoric humans were scared of heights - it helped to keep them from falling off cliffs.
But fear is not the thing keeping me alive right now. A harness and rope and some metal bolted into rock is keeping me alive. Any my best friend, who has the other end of the rope in her hands. I smile down at her and feel the fluttery sensation that comes with being suspended 80 feet above the ground.
As Jasmina lowers me off the wall of rock, I feel the endorphins in my body starting to party. As soon as my feet touch the ground, I unclip my harness from the rope, and turn to hug her. "I love this."
"You're fearless Marley," Jasmina says, radiating. You're going to be a great climber in no time."
I consider the six+ years that Jasmina and Jenny have been climbing. Becoming a good climber takes time and patience, and lots of experience. I still have so much to learn when it comes to placing gear and using proper technique and building mental fortitude.
But still, I can climb. I can calmly stare down my own fear and push myself to reach up, even when it feels terrifying. I can trust my feet. I can learn so much from my Jasmina and Jenny.
"Thanks birdie," I say, hugging her again. "This is awesome."