# of pages written: 4, so far
# of days left to write 1st draft: 131
Last night I talked on the phone to my dear friend, Mike. Mike is getting ready to go to England for eight months to help victims of human trafficking, and in order to do this he needs to raise an enormous amount of money. So enormous, I literally gasped when he told me the total.
“Yeah.” Mike chuckled. “That’s what I thought at first, too.” When he decided to pursue this project, he was doubtful that he would ever raise enough money. “My buddy was like, ‘have faith – you’ll get the money somehow,’ but I was having a really hard time believing I would. I figured I’d try my best and see what happened.” What happened is that he’s now reached 83% of his fund-raising goal. I’m astounded.
I first met Mike in college. He was a thin boy with a mop of dark hair and an impish grin, riding his bike around campus in a thrift store coat. I bounded up to him one day in the parking lot and told him I liked the hula girl adhered to his bike handle. After that, I pretty much forced him to be my friend.
And I’m glad I did. My senior year we both signed up for “Adventure Games,” a one-credit class that consisted of rock-climbing in the axillary gym, zip-lining across Lake Matoka, and spending quality time on the ropes course in the woods by the old amphitheater.
I had done OK with some of the ropes course challenges, but then came the day that we were to do one called “The Statue of Liberty.” Mike and I were partners, and, as always, he went first. He deftly climbed up to the four-inch-wide balance beam that was set between two trees about thirty feet off the ground. While I stood below, belaying him and giving his rope some slack, he stepped onto the beam and looked down at me. “Wow,” he said, his voice shaking. “It’s really high up here.” I was surprised. This was the first time Mike had ever seemed nervous. But, he shrugged it off and shuffled across the balance beam, up the three steps in the middle of the beam, and then over to the other side. He made it look so easy.
When it was my turn, I made sure my harness was on properly and then I began to climb. I shimmied around the tree, hugging it with both arms, and stepped out onto the beam. Slowly, I let go of the tree with one hand, but I continued to cling to it with the other.
“Good job, Eva!” Mike called from the ground. “Now you just have to walk across!”
Suddenly I realized how difficult this was going to be. In all of the other ropes course elements we’d done so far, there had been something to hold onto. And having something to hold onto while you’re terrified makes all the difference.
“OK!” I said. But I couldn’t make myself let go of the tree. My legs were shaking violently, and my heart pounded in my throat. I took some baby steps along the beam, still holding onto the tree.
“You’re going to have to let go!” Mike called from the bottom.
“I know. But I’m scared.” I couldn’t control the wobbling in my knees. I inched back towards the tree to stabilize myself.
“That’s OK!” Mike yelled. “I was scared, too. Take you’re time. You can do it.”
For the next fifteen minutes, I stood, frozen in that spot, holding onto the tree, and Mike proved to be both a patient person and an amazing friend. He said things like:
“I know you can do this, Eva.”
“Take your time.”
“Just let go and take one step.”
“It’s OK. I’ve got you.”
“You’re so close. I know you can do it.”
“I’ll wait here all day if I need to, but you’re not climbing back down.”
“Just try your best, and if you fall it’s OK. I’ll catch you.”
It was exactly what I needed. He was patient and kind . He gave me unconditional support and encouragement. But he was also firm – he wasn’t going to let me not try.
Finally he must have filled me up with all the encouragement I needed, or maybe I was just desperate to get down from such an unnatural height. Either way, I let go of the tree and started shuffling across the four-inch beam.
“You’re doing awesome, Eva!” Mike called from the ground. I could hear the grin in his voice. “You’re awesome!”
I got to the steps and climbed them – one, two, three – and then back down. I reached the other side of the beam and touched the tree. I’d made it.
Last night, when I was talking to Mike, I reminded him of this incident. “It was the absolute best encouragement I’ve ever received,” I told him. “And I think I need to give myself the same sort of pep talks. I need to be patient and unconditionally supportive, but I also can’t allow myself to not try.”
There have been times over the past few weeks when I’ve thought, you know, maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a “real” writer. Maybe I don’t have enough grit to be a novel writer or enough creativity to be a fiction writer. Maybe I should just focus on writing essays. Maybe I should become a yoga teacher and forget about writing altogether. But then I think about Mike. He would never let me climb back down. I’ve climbed up the tree to Cape Cod, and I’m standing here, thirty feet up, afraid to let go.
I’ve been stalling for awhile now. But I think my fifteen minutes is coming to an end. My legs are feeling a little more stable, and I know that it’s better to fall than not try at all.
P.S. If you’re interested hearing more about Mike’s service project or would like information on how you can help, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will pass your information on to him. He’s so close…let’s help him reach his goal!