My foot slipped. My arms shook and my sprained toe twinged as I strained to support my body dangling 25 feet up on the side of an old, twisty tree. My helmet kept tipping backwards, choking me as I searched for a way to continue my journey toward the canopy.
The others had stopped. You can stop too, a little voice buzzed temptingly in my ear. If they couldn’t do it, why should you? I brushed the thought away and grabbed another branch with determination.
By then I had spent 10 days in the Costa Rican rainforest on an Outward Bound program. I had hiked 22 hours with a 45-pound pack, planted bananas, sacrificed a chicken, picked pineapples, made sugar, and stayed with the kindest family I had ever met, playing endless soccer games with their many children. A tree should seem like nothing! But this tree, slippery with moss, entwined with vines, with 50 feet of precarious handholds, was a new challenge. And I have never been one to turn away from a challenge.
What I realized that day, somewhere between detangling my belay line and scraping open an old cut, was that I am one of the most determined people I know. I was one of the four in my 10-person group who made it to the top (and the only girl).
Why did most deny themselves that feeling of accomplishment that was so uplifting, and the sense of victory when you stand in the tree canopy? It was not a physical reason because I was no stronger. As I thought about this later, sitting in a rock sauna, I found an inner drive. A desire. A motivation. A determination to finish what I start, to finish with success.
What is it that drives me? A sense of expectation instilled by my parents? Some deep-seated internal motivation I was born with? Does it matter?
More important than the determination to succeed is my determination to try. Beverly Sills once said, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” This could not be more true and is a principle I live by. If you never try, there is never any hope to succeed. Failure, in fact, is irrelevant if one has tried their hardest, tried until they have nothing left, because there is a certain success in trying. It takes a lot of determination to try so hard, but I believe I have found enough within me to succeed at whatever I try.
All because of a tree in Costa Rica that I ascended one summer.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.