The day had finally arrived. Driving down the highway, I looked up at the downtown skyline that was quickly approaching. “There it is. There’s your building.” I’m trying to ignore the swarm of butterflies that have taken over every inch of my stomach.
“Why are you so nervous? You willingly signed up to do this.” My husband: master of the obvious.
It was true. Months ago I signed up to go “Over the Edge” for Big Brothers Big Sisters, agreeing to repel down 27 stories to help raise money and awareness. Since then I had been working very hard–organizing fund raising events, partnering with local businesses, and asking my friends and family to help support me. To be honest, when I volunteered to do this, I thought raising the money would be the hard part; it never occurred to me that the actual repelling would be one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life…but make no mistake, IT WAS!
You don’t realize just how tall a 27 story building is…that is, until you are standing right at the bottom of it looking up with the knowledge that you’ll soon be climbing down the side of it. So let me tell you, 27 stories is really, really, REALLY tall…really.
And as much as I tried to procrastinate it, it was time for me to make my way up to the top.
Here’s how it works…
After getting fitted into my gear, I rode the elevator up to the top floor and then had to climb up two additional flights of stairs. Standing on the top of the building, my husband’s words kept playing over and over in my head…“You willingly signed up to do this.” What in the world was I thinking???!!!
Time for my “training”. I received about a five minute demonstration and then was able to “practice” repelling–going from the 29th floor to the main roof on the 27th.
I stood there–my toes on the edge of the roof, my heels off. The worker was talking to me–at least I could see his mouth move, so I’m assuming he was talking, but honestly I was in full panic mode at this point…he could have told me that I just hit the lottery and it wouldn’t have registered. However, I do remember one thing that he said….“Now your safety lever is a little difficult, so if it gets engaged, you may have to work hard to get it back in place.” Wait…WHAT??!!!! That is NOT what I need to hear right now! Great, now I have visions of getting stuck on the side of this building–after all, I don’t exactly have the best track record with these things…or have you forgotten what happened when I went zip lining?
I knew eventually I would have to step off the building, but when that moment actually arrived, I was absolutely petrified. I’m not even afraid of heights, but something happens to you when you’re standing on the edge of building: your brain knows you shouldn’t be doing this…your body knows, you shouldn’t be doing this….but somehow, I found the courage to do it anyways. I stepped off the side and repelled down to the 27th floor.
I was still shaking once I landed. But my sense of relief was short-lived…that was just the training! I realized I had only made it down two stories. Two tiny, little stories. Now I had to do 27??!!!
I hate to even admit this, but I was tempted to quit…feeling that my two-story training was more than enough. But I knew I couldn’t. I had friends and family at the bottom waiting to cheer me on. People had donated money for me to do this. I made a promise to myself at the beginning of the year to push myself to try new things. Nope–I came this far, I was going to finish.
So there I was…again, standing on the side of a building, toes barely hanging on, heart beating out of my chest. As I stepped over the edge, I did the only thing I could think to do: I screamed…a lot. “Don’t look down!” That’s the advice the workers gave me. Well, thanks–now I have to look…and then I quickly realized that I really should have taken their advice. Too late now.
I tried to remember what I was told: once you have your feet planted on the side of the building, the rest is easy–just stepping over the edge is the hardest part. NOT TRUE! My extreme level of fear pretty much remained constant the entire time. At one point, I was about half way down and I just kept thinking, “What in the world am I doing? Why am I dangling off the side of a building? What did I get myself into?”
I knew that I really shouldn’t be afraid–there was every possible safety measure in place that you could imagine. But in my defense, there was one element that made this even harder for me: the weather. Yep, apparently Mother Nature didn’t care that I was terrified….it was very windy and a storm was approaching. As I was repelling down, periodically I would get a lovely gust of wind that would blow me over to the side or twist my ropes. TERRIFYING!
There’s a saying I heard: If you think a minute goes by really fast, you’ve never been on a treadmill. Well, I’d argue if you think 13 minutes goes by really fast, you’ve never repelled down 27 stories!
And while I really was scared the entire time, I did it. I didn’t quit. And I’m really proud of that.
And more than that, I’m proud that I was able to support an incredible organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters.
So what did repelling down a 29 story building teach me? A lot, actually. In fact, so much that it really deserves its own blog post…you can read it here.
But for now, I need to say thank you again–to everyone who donated, who believed in me, who was there to cheer me on. And while this was one of the craziest things I’ve ever done, I’m so glad I did it…and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.