It started like a brief whisper in the wind, a tingling, imperceptible brush against your cheek, not even enough to make a leaf flutter. Now it’s howling and snapping in every direction, so chaotic and strong it rips you apart, no matter how tightly you try to hold it all at your chest.

My demons emerge and they tell me to be afraid. Be afraid you’re not smart. Be afraid you’re not attractive. Be afraid of your body. Be afraid of being alone. Be afraid of commitment. Be petrified of embodying every kind of flaw there is. Put yourself in the line of fire and don’t you dare move. Good girl.

In my early 20’s, I somehow managed to ignore it. This was a light time- radiant summer days, late nights dancing with boys, afternoons at the library trying to suppress bursts of laughter with genuine friends, early mornings relishing your strong stride on a run. Any decision felt reversible, unimportant.

Now, the fear wants to be indelible, to burrow into your bones and become indestructible. To paralyze you, so you’re always miserable. So you’re always tired. So you never know what is actually important to you. So you’re always on the verge of believing, until you finally lose yourself and give in.

At first it is borne externally, but eventually it is engendered in your own self. You start to believe it. You can’t follow the thread of each thought to its source before you hit a tight mess of knots. You become callous and bitter and cold towards others because you are trained to question everything , especially your own thoughts.

It seems, though, that there is one sacred, pure though that is uncorrupted and unable to be manipulated- my ambition to be the best climber I can be in a way that I have defined. It is the one thing that makes sense. Finding this natural outlet to direct my drive, which has brought fleeting moments of rich and deep satisfaction- moments when the fear is absent- comes hand in hand with drawn out periods of sometimes agonizing despair when I can’t align my life with my goal. It’s during these times that I most easily give into my demons. I cannot decide if it is a gift, or it is a curse. I’m certainly aware that the pressure of climbing well creates its own unique fear.

It’s interesting how a mere circumstance- me walking into the climbing gym at my undergraduate university and wanting to flirt with one of the climbers- eventually connected two disjoint parts of my brain, like lightning striking the earth. I think I’ve been trying to hold onto old priorities, as a means of protecting myself from the strike, but lately I’ve wanted to strip it off, envelop myself in the bright sheet of light, the jagged shards of static, carry the wounds with me.

Understanding the darker sides of my ambition does not remove the numbness. It doesn’t take away the need.

I can either ricochet between what I want to do and what I feel like I should do, be introspective and unsatisfied, or, take a deep breath and a big chance.

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