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A+SEL, Representation, Student Engagement

Conquering the Rock Wall

Conquering the Rock Wall

When my mom signed me up for rock climbing camp last summer, I was so excited. My older twin sisters are really good at climbing, and they were going to be my counselors! I was ready to be as good as they were, right from day one. The night before camp started, I picked out my favorite purple exercise dress and matched my sneakers to my new climbing gloves. I barely slept. My mind was racing with excitement! I couldn’t wait to ring the bell at the top of the biggest wall and wave down to everyone! What would my group think when I easily raced to the top? Would I be able to see my house from that high up?

But then, the first day didn’t go according to plan. It turns out rock climbing is super hard! By the end of the day, I’d barely made it halfway to the top of the smallest wall in the whole gym. I was used to being good at things. In my dance class, I was the best at double pirouettes. In my acting group, I was the only one who had memorized an entire Shakespeare monologue. Why wasn’t I good at this? My sisters gave me tips: “Put your right hand on the red rock!” “Breathe!” “Come back down and try again!” I still couldn’t make it to the top. My shoulders were burning. My fingers ached. Some other kids in my group were already onto the bigger wall, and I couldn’t help but feel jealous. That was supposed to be me!

Conquering the Rock Wall

The next day, I wanted to pretend that I was sick or had pulled a muscle or something. It was embarrassing, flailing around on the small wall, and it was hard watching other people succeed when I was failing miserably. But then my sister Ni-jah pulled me aside. “Rock climbing isn’t like acting,” she said. “You have to use different parts of your body and brain,” she told me. “Be nice to yourself. And be patient!” I hadn’t noticed before, but I wasn’t being nice to myself. All morning I’d been asking myself, “Why are you so bad at this?” and saying things in my head like, “You’re so embarrassing for still being on the small wall.” I tried to imagine what I’d say to my little sister Hadiayah if she were having trouble with something. I definitely wouldn’t tell her she’s embarrassing!

When I strapped into the harness, I reminded myself how strong I am. “You memorized Shakespeare, so you can climb a wall,” I said as I reached for the rock that tripped me up before. “Breathe Imani, you’ve got this!” I mouthed as I kicked my toe around for a grip. I felt really shaky, but I resolved to keep trying. And it worked! It took me forever, but I finally made it to the top of the wall. Ringing the bell at the top, I felt like I’d conquered Mt. Everest. When I dropped back down to the floor, my sisters gave me a big hug. “We knew you could do it!” they exclaimed. By the end of the week, I still hadn’t made it to the top of the big wall. That was okay. I was proud of myself anyway because I didn’t quit.

Giving up would’ve been so easy! But I’m glad I didn’t. I’m nowhere close to being as good at climbing as my sisters are, but just trying and succeeding showed me that I can do whatever I set my mind to. Even if my shoulders are burning and I’m dying of embarrassment, I have what it takes to keep going. And that’s made me a better actor and dancer because I’m determined to see how many challenges I can overcome doing what I love. How many more monologues can I memorize? What level of dance competitions can I ascend to? Now that I know I am resilient, my world is unlimited!

Conquering the Rock Wall

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