Taking the First Step This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 4, 2011
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. The vibration from the helicopter rattles my bones as I cautiously stumble my way across the Mendenhall Glacier. I can scarcely hear the guide as he begins his monologue regarding the glacier’s history. I grip my grandmother’s gloved hand tightly as we trek towards the crevasse. My heart quickens, and although I still cannot hear her, I know my grandmother is reassuring me. I avert my eyes from my focused steps and instantly recognize the figure in the short distance as my mom. As the vibrations from the helicopter dwindle, a new pulsing emerges and soon transitions into an echoing roar. Before my feet, a small canyon thick with water strains to reach my ankles. While the entirety of my family hops across with ease, I pivot exactly ninety degrees, and follow the water the fifty-some yards until it meets it’s fate at a trench and becomes a small waterfall. A foot away, the ice begins again and I test it before walking across to rejoin my family. With the regained grasp of my grandmother’s hand, my pace quickens to align with hers. The guide lectures about the mountains in the distance, but my focus is on the crevasse ahead.

All too soon, I find myself peering into the abyss. An eerie silence envelops me from the inside out, only to be broken by my gasp as the guide leaps across the crevasse. The enormity of the task laying ahead strikes me as if by lightning. Following in suit, my family begins to step across the crevasse. As the guide and I assist my grandmother across, the resounding silence takes its hold on me.

My entire life, I have successfully avoided my two true fears: falling and dying. Now, it seems, I am at the precipice of both. I have always been an analytical risk taker, but I have never seen the need to fling myself across anything. Yet now, I have found a valid reason. Seeing the encouraging look on my grandmother’s face, the worried look on my mom’s face, and the dumbfounded look on my eight-year-old cousin’s face is all I need.

As I lift my concrete feet from the ice, every synapse fires and tries to hold me back. What occurred in the blink of an eye took an eternity. I turn around and look at my accomplishment: one foot across, but miles in depth.

I tighten the straps on my backpack, exchange a knowing look with my mother, and receive a reassuring nod from my grandmother as I place my hands into my pockets.

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