I Am Safe

July 10, 2024


I am Safe – A Story of Rock Climbing and Overcoming Fear

Olivia was the first one to the youth center on Friday morning, 10 minutes early like always. “What time is it?” she asked. 

“8:50,” I told her. Olivia doesn’t have a phone, and being only 11, she walks over to the youth center extra early so she’s not late. We ate breakfast and piled into the van when the rest of the kids arrived. 

When we reached Post Falls, Olivia turned to me and asked, “We’re rock climbing outside?”

I assumed the kids were all aware that rock walls appeared in nature and not just in plastic rock climbing gyms, which surprised them. Nonetheless, we continued to meet our friends at Peak 7. They gave an excellent safety talk and fitted us with all the proper gear, and then we ventured down the path to the rock wall. When we arrived, Olivia quickly raised her hand to go first. Slowly but surely, she climbed. She was cautious, ensuring her feet were firmly secure before taking the next step. She made it about 10 feet into the air before reluctantly falling back into her harness and lowering to the ground. It was a great first try. 

After a few others got their turns, Olivia asked to go again. This time, she was on a mission. There was a ledge about 20 feet up that she was determined to reach, and she climbed it in the same careful manner. She made it up to the ledge and stood up tall, proud of her accomplishment. She turned around and looked down, and her face dropped. “Ready to come down?” the guide called. 

“I need a break, I’m scared,” she replied. About 20 minutes later, Olivia still refused to move. We coached her and told her she could do it, but she was terrified. Another student, Lilly, graciously went up to help her down. “Come on, Olivia, it’s the only way! I’m not going down without you!” she said. 

Finally, we asked Lily to come down, and I geared up to get Olivia. I’ve never climbed so fast, and I was standing beside Olivia on the cliffside in no time, tears running down her face. It was clear that Olivia was experiencing a mental block, something I was familiar with from my days in gymnastics. “Alright, Olivia, this feels scary right now, but the truth is you’re safe. Our brains like to convince us that we should be scared when we don’t need to, and sometimes we must remind ourselves of the truth. Olivia, you’re safe. I need you to say that out loud to yourself.” 

“I’m… safe,” the word sputtered between quiet sobs, and we repeated it together. 

“This feels scary, but you’re safe, and we can do it!” Together, we sat back in our harnesses and felt the rope hold us up. I put my hand on her back and motioned the guides to start lowering us. “We’re doing it, Olivia! Look at you go,” I said, staying beside her. 

We started picking up speed, and Olivia’s face regained some color. We were halfway down, and she confidently stepped down the rock wall.  Before we knew it, our feet were on solid ground. Olivia conquered a fear and did something she never thought she could have. Overcoming fears is something that we all have to do throughout life. We can get stuck in that fearful state forever without someone to push us, but Olivia overcame it. It takes practice to talk to ourselves and coach ourselves through anxieties, but that’s what the YFC staff is here for.

Many of the youth we serve don’t have trusted adults to push them and help them through tough times. We love going on outdoor adventure trips because our youth face challenging situations, both mentally and physically. The challenges are often different than expected, but the staff is always there to help them through it. These challenges are often the moments we see and experience the most growth. 

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