Monday, 29 April 2013


Almost a couple of months ago now I was up the Sunny Coast on camp with the Year 12 men from Padua College (I was there as part of the Men Alive team). An important element of the camp/retreat program they have there is physical activity. Actually, "physical activity" is a bit of an understatement. I'm talking rafting in the ocean, mountain biking up impossibly steep slopes and the ever daunting challenge of a high ropes course.

Now, I like to consider myself somewhat athletic (certainly not a prime physical specimen); but heading into the camp I was liking my chances of keeping up with the boys throughout the week. Then they wheeled out  the mountain bikes. See, I haven't ridden a bike since I was 14 years old, and as much as we throw around the old adage "it's like riding a bike", I was becoming quite anxious about navigating the steep, rocky, slippery, deadly slopes that made up the bike track. I survived and didn't fall off once (there were some very close calls though) and it turned out to be quite an enjoyable new experience (so much so that I said I would take up mountain biking...I haven't yet!)

But the real challenge, the defining moment, the man-or-mouse junction came on the high ropes course.You see, I like the ground: it's stable, relatively still and you can't fall through the ground 10-15 meters and split your skull open. A high ropes course offers none of the above reassurances. Oh, did I mention I'm afraid of heights! But I knew I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't try the different obstacles; and certainly the Padua boys wouldn't have let me live it down either! So up I went, and like all things it was fine once I was up there. 

Me traversing the high ropes course

Except for one obstacle: the climbing net. Imagine a rope net, hung from tree branches and not tied down at the bottom. The moment you begin climbing this thing the whole net twists, swings, sags, turns and tells you: "you will not make it to the top!" After making it only half way on my first attempt I believed it, shrugged my shoulders and went back down, body intact but ego bruised.

Obviously I tried again. Unsatisfied with my first attempt (mostly because the others were saying how easy it was) I launched myself up the rope rungs once more! Like in my first attempt, exhaustion set in half way through but I pushed myself and (eventually) succeeded in climbing to the top!

I learnt a lot about myself on that camp. I was way out of my comfort zone hurtling down a hill on a mountain bike. I pushed myself to my limit pulling myself up that climbing net. We often hear about getting out of our comfort zone, but how often do we look at how comfortable we are in who we are? Before the Padua camp I hadn't realised how comfortable  I was in myself, I hadn't challenged myself in a long time, I hadn't experienced anything new in months. I was living a "familiar" life. I needed to freak myself out a little bit and it took jumping of a platform suspended 15 meters in the air. How can you freak yourself out of what's familiar to you?

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