Since beginning rock-climbing class, I have gone through a multitude of emotions: excitement, anger, anxiety and fear. Elation that I finally learned to tie a “double figure eight” and misery that I had to travel nearly an hour away in rush hour traffic after a 10-hour workday to get to the class.  Jittery nerves after pushing myself to dizzying heights, and utter emotional exhaustion as I just try to get through each class without breaking my thin arms or (worse!) making a fool of myself.

It’s been a heck of a ride, to say the least, but I have come through it with a very important lesson: “The only thing holding you back is you.”

Many times in life, we use excuses that, frankly, can make a lot of sense. We can’t exercise because we work too late, we can’t eat healthy because it’s too expensive, we can’t make weekday Mass because we start work too early, and the rosary? I always fall asleep before I reach the second decade.  Often it can be a never ending list.

One of my last rock climbing classes had to do with following the “trails” they have on the wall. Color-coded, these trails can go from easy, moderate and hard. Often times they have you climbing overhangs, reaching high above to pull yourself up, or using your legs to stand up on a precarious hold as you reach for the holdings with the correct color. When we learned to follow the trails, my instructor got a good taste of my true colors as I came up with every single excuse as to why I couldn’t go past the halfway point.

“My arms are like twigs, they’ll snap if I pull up!”

“My heart is beating too fast, and I’m scared to go any farther!”

“Tracy will drop me!”

“I think someone pulled the tape off these last few rocks. I can’t reach those last ones!”

You get the picture.

Finally, after our second class of trail learning, my instructor got pretty serious with me. He told me, matter-of-factly, that there was nothing physical holding me back. I was tied up, so there was no chance of falling. There were solid holdings, so of course I could reach the top. Looking at me with a serious, “no more excuses” expression, he told me that the only thing holding me back was me. So, in an effort to show him how wrong he was (yes, I’m serious) I took a deep breath, wiped the sweat from my hands and began to climb with this mantra going through my mind the whole time:  “Please God, let me live through this!”

And you know what? Funny thing. I reached the top. Go figure.

So, while you may have the uncanny ability to come up with a million and one excuses for why you can’t do something in your life that you maybe always wished you had, I’m living proof that you can do it. There is always a way to make the effort, to find the money (although this may set you back sometimes) or to get the motivation to make a new addition to your life. All you have to do is make up your mind, strap yourself in and set out to prove someone wrong.

Even if that person may sometimes be you.


Music playing while writing this: “Keep on loving” by Ethan Keller