This is a piece I wrote for my college entrance exam at Stanford and many other colleges. It was based on my experience at Outward Bound. It was a beautiful time in nature and a testing time. Here is one excerpt from a challenging mountain I was rock climbing.
“Jack, I don’t know what to do! Where do I go? Where can I put my foot?”
He said, “Pammy, I can’t help you. You have to go where is right for you.”
At first it was a challenge I did not think I could face. Looking up at eighty feet of uncompromising rock, I heard my Outward Bound instructor yell with enthusiasm: “Go conquer that mountain, Pam!” I thought to myself, “God, I’m really counting on you. I have to be strong.”
Although I started off a bit shakily, with minutes I was a third of the way up the mountain, encouraged by my belayer’s constant support. As I continued to rockclimb up the side of the cliff, I suddenly found myself in a precarious position. There was nowhere to go. I pictured what Jack, one of my closest friends on this course had done: spread himself across the rock and yelled to his belayer to pull up the rope as he stretched across a protruding boulder to another unsteady foothold. Well, that suited Jack, who was used to the outdoors and camping before Outward Bound, but my athletics consisted of running down a paved road or scrambling after a fluorescent ball and hitting it over a net, not dangling by a rope forty feet over jagged rocks.
I grew more and more tired; I was practically holding myself up by my arms. Then I called to Jack, the person I knew I could count on. Jack’s answer to my panicked cries was exactly was I needed to hear, despite what I felt at that time.
I was on my own, and I had to find a way up the mountain by myself. I searched desperately for a foothold, but there was none. Suddenly a thought came to me, “Don’t look for a foothold.” But surely I could not pull myself up this mountain. I looked to my left, and saw a flat slab of rock perpendicular to the ground. I put my boot straight up against it and pulled myself up with a strength I knew I had to have. I stood there on a ledge, shaking, calming myself, and finally making it up that mountain.
But more important I had learned something that will continue to be valuable to me in future challenges. I learned to count on myself and to be more independent. Jack had said, “I can’t help you.” His advice held more meaning for me than he realized. I had to find a way up that mountain by myself, for myself. Now I was confident that I would have the courage and strength to face my future challenges, mountains or otherwise.