Yesterday, I fell. A year in recap.

There’s still a month left to 2017, but a period isn’t strictly book-ended by dates. The year isn’t finished yet, but yesterday, I fell, and today I felt its impact. I think it’s worth sharing.

Yep – a little wordplay for you for a cheesy segue into life lessons learned this year by yours truly.

Yesterday, I went indoor bouldering again after a few years since the last time I climbed. Bouldering is a type of rock climbing on large (artificial, in this case) boulders without the use of harnesses or ropes. Bouldering follows a grading system: in the case of Aspire Climbing in Milton, ON, similarly colored “rocks” were marked with white tape to dictate that it was of the easiest level; and then yellow; and then blue; and so on. I cleared the white-marked courses fast enough.

Hopping from one foothold to another, feeling the muscles in my arms tighten, shifting my weight – I felt good. I felt empowered. I felt capable, and challenged.

“I felt good. I felt empowered. I felt capable, and challenged.”

Onto yellow. I cleared two yellow courses with difficulty and a lot of break time in between. I semi-completed the third.

My energy was fast depleting, but I wanted to clear another yellow set before stopping for the night. I eyed a course of blue rocks marked with yellow tape on the wall. I climbed. I jumped down 3/4 of the way up, short of two moves from clearing the course.

After resting, I stood on the deeply padded floor, looking up at the 16-foot tall wall. I planned how to navigate up the wall. I exhaled, and climbed.

The bottom half was fun and easy enough, but it was still challenging.

The latter half of it was difficult because of a 2-meter convex column on the wall, which pushes your body away from the wall while you tiptoe on a 2-inch foothold and reached for the last two grips. I was determined to complete the course, but I was terrified of falling.

I feared my arms would give up. I feared my knees would buckle under my weight. I feared that I would scrape the whole front of my body on the jagged grips. I feared others would see me fall, and laugh.

“I was determined… but I was terrified of falling.”

I reminded myself that the floor was padded, but the fear of falling from that height doesn’t listen to reason.

I was one move away from completing the course.

In the couple of seconds before my fall, several things happened at once: I could imagine and felt the energy in my arms drain from my wrists down to my elbows. My right arm shook. My right knee, which supported most of my weight, shook. My left hand desperately clambered at the black, downward grip. I watched my left fingers falter on the artificial rock. I felt a pang of pride; I was so close to the top.

Then, I accepted my fate.

My fingers lost their grip, and my eyes shut. I fell backwards, dropping horizontally with my arms and legs sprawled out. Every muscle relaxed. I fell on the padded floor. The back of my head bounced once.

I fell flat on my back. I raised my neck to spot my friend standing a few feet away. “Riley, I fell!” I said and raised my hand. He grabbed it, and I stood up.

I fell. And I was okay.

Riley and I sat on the benches away from the bouldering walls. We must have laughed about my spectacular fall for ten minutes. No one else laughed, or even cared.

This past year, I climbed new heights. At work, my contributions were rewarded with the promise of a promotion. Just as the last rock on the yellow course beckoned me from two feet above my head, so did the “manager” title from the end of a productive and busy year. I reached new, dizzying peaks in passion and love. I reveled in the familiar warmth of an old friend under a new light. All these things were exhilarating, and each came with its own set of fears.

Heart beating hard against my rib cage, I faced each fear – real and fabricated.

And with each one, I crashed.

A major shift in the workplace flipped my future. Despite our feelings for each other, my relationship ended. I lost a decade-long friendship. Nothing cushioned my fall from any of these jarring life changes, and getting back up has been hard. I felt alone and defeated on many occasions. I’ve cried in parked cars, on the phone, in the aisles of an LCBO, in my bed. I’ve cursed and acted out in anger. But, I’ve also made new allies and friends, carved myself a new home, and created opportunities for myself. I fell, and I’m okay.

This was the year I climbed higher than I ever have in important areas of my life, and the year that I fell from each precipice. What I take away from these, however, is not the spectacular fall.

I take away from these the memory of being so close to the spectacular top. I enjoyed recognition, friendship, and love. This year’s characters and opportunities brought me to new, tallest highs, and these are the highs I aim to have again in my life.

The fall was only spectacular because I was so spectacularly high up, and the views where I stood were worth my tears, my passion, my dedication. I will return to Aspire, and I will conquer.

“The fall was only spectacular because the views from up high were worth it.”

This was my 2017. How was yours?

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