I stood two decks beneath it, staring up.  I took in the brightly-colored unusually-shaped blobs that comprised footholds and hand grips.  I gazed at the lengthy ropes, swinging precariously in the gusty ocean breeze.  I watched as the wall curved in a steep angle near the bell at the top.  And I looked at my surroundings on Deck 12, high above the surface of the sea, where the waves and strong currents had knocked me on my ass just five minutes earlier as I was schooling Greg at mini-golf. 

Sure, I could go rock-climbing for the very first time while at sea.  No problem!

My first mistake was telling everyone that I was going to do it.  “Are you going to go rock-climbing?” my in-laws would ask.  I found myself making up excuses as the questions continued day after day. 

“I don’t think the facility is open,” I’d say. 

“It’s raining…too slippery.” 

“The boat is really rocking, I’m sure it’s closed.”

It’s funny, because I didn’t FEEL afraid of the rock-climbing wall on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas.  I have always wanted to take a rock-climbing class because I’m not afraid of heights, and many hikers transition into rock-climbing at some point.  So why did I suddenly not want to go?  Was I afraid of failure?  Of being schooled by the little kid who nimbly scrambled to the top multiple times as if she were Spiderman’s illegitimate daughter?   

I think what got me the most had nothing to do with the climbing.  It was watching the other amateur climbers rappel down at accelerated speeds that got my stomach in a knot. 

So after signing the obligatory waiver form, velcroing on bendy lightweight climbing shoes, affixing a harness and a helmet, and posing for this picture, the very first thing I asked my spotter was, “Is there any way I can come down slowly?” 

I hadn’t even set foot on the wall yet and already I was worrying about what came after.  At least I wasn’t AFRAID to admit I was chicken!  But that’s the thing.  The wall itself didn’t scare me; it excited me. 

I really had no fear on the way up.  I scaled the first few steps very quickly, and then I hit a mental wall.  I couldn’t find a place for my either of my feet and couldn’t reach the next grip for my hand.  I just stopped for a good 60 seconds trying to figure it all out.  My spotter kept yelling at me to keep going and just find a place to put my feet.  I don’t know how I did it, but I got one or two more steps onto the wall before calling it quits.  “I think I’m good!” I shouted! 

“Go ahead and ring the bell,” my spotter said.

I almost burst out laughing.  I was clinging to the wall for dear life with every extremity–how was I going to let go and ring it without falling?  But I had to clang the bell of success…I’d made it half-way up!  Somehow, I peeled one arm off the wall, the rest of me stuck to it like an old-school 80s Colorform.  Ding ding! 

And slowly, steadily, my spotter eased me down.