I’ve never categorized myself as the athletic or risk-taker type. A year or two ago, I would have stared at the forty-five feet tall climbing wall and hidden in the shadows, watching enviously as everyone else attempted to climb.

But many things can happen in a year. Even before I came to NSLC, I was starting to break out of my shell. When our group stood at the climbing wall, I was thinking, I don’t want to be known as that girl that chickened out. Besides, if I don’t do it now, then I’ll regret it forever, always wondering what would have happened if I had climbed.

I watched as the first boy in our group climbed the rock wall, like it was a piece of cake, and then several more girls followed him. So it’s not a superhuman task, I decided. I can do it.

But I did the rope ladder instead, and I was first to do it, and I was in for a surprise. As soon as I placed my foot on the rope rung, the entire ladder sank down. That time, I nearly backed out, but I told myself, I can’t stop, not when I haven’t even started.

It was tiring, but I kept going. You have to get halfway there. After that, it was, you’ve gotten this far, just a little more. Then, you’re almost there, you can do it!

And I did it. I climbed all the way to the top. I was sore and exhausted afterwards, but I didn’t regret trying the ladder. I’d done something that I had never before thought that I could achieve.

Next on the course was a zip line, which I was really excited for. Then I saw that we had to walk across a rope to get to it, and I started weighing my options again. But this time, I was quicker in deciding that, yes, I do want to do the zip line, and if I have to walk across that rope, then I’ll do it.

Besides, if the Hobbits did it in The Lord of the Rings, then so can I.

I was taught to work before having fun, so I knew that I had to do something that I didn’t particularly like, in order to do something that I did want to do. And the zip line was completely worth it.

After that was the wooden jungle gym, and I admit that there were many times when I thought that I was going to fall, even though I knew that the workers would never let that happen. I just focused on my goal, just focused on getting through the course, and I made it.

I was third in my group for the jungle gym, and the first two passed going onto the second level. But, again, if I didn’t at least try, then I’d regret it for a very long time.

I did it, I passed, I was exhausted, but the feeling of succeeding at something so difficult to me was amazing. When you sacrifice so much blood, sweat, and tears, it makes victory that much sweeter.

Finally, we got to “relax.” There was a large mechanical swing, and I immediately knew that I just had to do it. The first time I went on, I had to pull the rip cord. I had no idea how to work it. When I did figure it out, none of the three of us on the swing were anticipating the initial drop anymore. But that made it more fun.

I did it a second time, still as the puller. Two of my friends were with me on the swing, and I asked them if they were ready. One said yes. One said no. I pulled.

But, hey, what’s life without surprises? Our day began with hard, physical work, which I wouldn’t have done a year ago. But now, I know that I can do it, and, if I get another opportunity, I will do it again.

I tried, I pushed my limits, and I succeeded. And I do not regret a thing.

After all, Lance Armstrong once said, “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

— Jessica C. Lee, Potomac, MD