Five years ago I climbed Half Dome in Yosemite. It was long before the Instagram craze of climbing that intrepid peak and without much research, I threw my and a friend’s names into the daily raffle that allows you to climb the dome. Four months later, I found myself gripping the chainlink ladder, hauling myself up wooden plank by wooden plank, trying my very best not to look down.
I’d been running around the hills of Westwood to prepare for the 14 mile hike but beyond that, done very little research about what to expect. The things I knew: It was long (it took us 10+ hours in total), it was steep (turns out it was full of switchbacks and stairs which have you making yourself crazy promises like “I’m going to buy myself that sequined jumpsuit if I survive this”), and that I needed to bring a lot of water (maybe an entire gallon was too much but I wasn’t taking chances).
When I say I climbed to the top of Half Dome, I should say I climbed the top of Half Dome one and a half times. The first time, I made it halfway up before having an anxiety attack and climbing down. Thankfully my hiking buddy convinced me that I’d deeply regret it if I didn’t make it to the top and they were entirely right. Even five years and a cross-country move later, I can still feel the glow that came the minute I reached the peak. It was one of the biggest moments in my life when I did something that terrified me and it totally worked out.
That picture at the top of the post was the exhilarating moment of reaching the peak but I feel like you deserve to see the reality of the hike, which are these two above. The first is when I realized how long this hike really was — those are some wide eyes. The second is when I realized how high Half Dome was and that in order to get to the top you essentially climb vertically up with no safety restraints. Both really make me laugh now.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my comfort zone, or rather doing things outside of my comfort zone. Especially in the last few years, it feels like the more I’ve grown into myself, the less room I’ve left for spontaneity or trying things I’ve already decided “just aren’t me.” It’s a balance, right? The balance between knowing what does and doesn’t serve you as a human while also acknowledging that you’re always growing and what served you in the past might not serve you now.
I would describe myself as a creature of habit — who also has a bit of a spontaneous, mischievous side that comes out when I least expect it. What can I say, it’s the Gemini in me. But the majority of the time, I love a good routine. My mental health tends to find a lot of security in sticking with the things I already know will make me happy or calmer. For anxiety, this is awesome! But for the side of my brain hungry for growth, this can leave me feeling a little stifled and quickly uninspired. It’s all those feelings mixed into one, you know?
The other day I was lamenting to one of my best friends on her couch that I couldn’t remember the last time I took the leap of faith and did something that scared me without a guaranteed outcome. Things like solo traveling around the world and fully pursuing my writing goals because it can feel easier to keep these things on my bucket list untouched by the possibility of failure.
It’s harder the more you grow up to throw reasonableness and rationality to the wind and really truly put yourself out there. But that is the beautiful power of best friends and mine have reminded me time and again that you don’t have to be one thing or another. You don’t have to be 100% a yogi and do nothing else. You don’t have to always be writing. You don’t have to be in New York City forever, but can love this city and crave nature as well. It’s simply bearing witness to the ways your soul is changing and navigating your life towards the new direction it’s pointing. (Souls are very wise, just saying.)
So today, in the spirit of recapturing that little bit of brave magic, I wanted to share seven times I did something that really scared me and it worked out … and seven times it most certainly did not. Hope it reminds you, as well as me, that it’s never too late to go after the things you really dream about and that many times, it’s better to do something — and totally fail — than to do nothing and wonder, “What if?”
7 Times My Leap of Faith Totally Worked
- Moving to New York City within two weeks of being “tentatively offered” a job working as a consultant for YouTube.
- Adopting my cats when I was 24-years-old with full knowledge I’d be caring for them until I was about 40. Still the best decision I ever made but the first 72 hours after bringing them home, I was absolutely terrified they hated me and/or I would accidentally break them.
- Saying yes to my Psychology Today feature even though I had no idea what I was really doing and was supposed to turn around 3,000 words and 14 interviews in two weeks. Shout out to all my loved ones who picked up all my crazed calls during those two weeks and didn’t disown me for how stressed out and cranky I was during that time.
- Saying yes to being on camera at YouTube Nation and eventually getting to host my own segment about badass women doing innovative things on the platform. I would never have considered myself an on-camera person, and was so nervous before almost every segment, but by the end it made me feel so empowered being able to say exactly what I thought to audiences.
- Hiking Half Dome — obviously.
- Going back to therapy the second time even though I’d convinced myself I wasn’t really a “therapy person” — HA!
- Buying those red culottes even though they’re borderline too much and/or blinding.
7 Other Times I Did Something Outside my Comfort Zone and it 100% Did Not Work
- Asking many a man on a date to grab coffee or a beer — including that one misguided time I asked via note which I left on a guy’s windshield. Perhaps it’s no surprise he did not call me back.
- Therapy the first time. It wasn’t for me in that moment and I wrote it off as something I’d never do again. HA again!
- So many writing pitches that got the green light but then my article wasn’t in line with the editor’s vision (The Village Voice, The Cut, Glamour). At the time it felt crushing, and like I was the worst writer in the world. It stopped me from pitching big for a really long time.
- The relaunch of my Voices Story Project which went off with a more of a whisper than a bang.
- Getting my cartilage pierced at Claires. Twice.
- The time I lived in a walk in closet to save money after college. It had no windows and it never got easier waking up in pitch darkness not knowing what time it was.
- Anytime I’ve taken a shot to show I was still “young” and “hip” after the age of 25.
PS. Interested in reading more about this topic? I feel in love with Haley Nahman’s essay for Man Repeller which became the inspiration for my piece.