My forearms burned. My legs quivered. I was half-way up the rock face. In my mind, quitting was not an option. I peered over my shoulder and evaluated the situation. My belayer stood 30 feet below on a plateau that looked over a rushing, white-water river. Seeing the height sent me into a brief paralyzing pause. I had to make it; I had to believe in myself and prove to myself that I was still strong.
What had brought me to this moment? Months of being defeated and not measuring up.
"The only way up is the way you don't want to go. Press your arms in the crack of the rock and skin the flesh off!" Those words carried up to me from my leader, he knew I was capable, but he was right, at this point, pain and struggle were mandatory to reach the victory.
I gritted my teeth, beads of sweat formed on my temple. I dug my arm in the rock crack and pried myself up slowly. This wasn't for anyone but me, and that was okay. My left foot began to slip. I let out a cry of frustration and anxiety.
"I've got you, you aren't going anywhere," my belayer reassured me.
I maneuvered my footing and hoisted myself up another few feet. You are strong. Ten more feet and the rock turned into a more favorable route. It's okay to be proud of yourself. I raised my eyes to see the final stretch of rock and my mentor and dear friend at the top, encouraging me.
Hand reach. Foot up. Push. Cling. They don't believe you can do this. Struggle. I had reached the top, I could barely believe it. I looked at my mentor, "You did it, it's okay to cry."
For once it was okay. I had conquered so much more than a climb. I had won back the truth that I could be believed in. And for one, I was proud of myself again.