True confession: I'm petrified of climbing ladders or climbing anything that is high up. Actually it's not so much the climb up as much as it's the climb down. Some would say I'm catlike in this aspect. However, this is more due to the fact that I've acquired this fear from my father who has a fear of climbing ladders. I don't even like climbing up and down stairs if I don't have to. I can't avoid stairs but I'm always aware of where the railing is. My husband is amazing in making sure to hold my hand everytime we have to go up and down stairs.
So climbing the Masada on my Birthright Trip to Israel back in 2006 at 4 AM was not my idea of fun.
But it wasn't my choice, no one asked me what I wanted to do. I would have a) told you I wanted to go back to sleep and b) take the lift both up and down.
However, when you're on a group trip...and a free group trip at that...you don't get much of a say.
So I hiked.
I had a blast once I was up. I enjoyed hearing the story of the Masada, I even had my Bat-Mitzvah up on the Masada because I never had my Bat-Mitzvah when I was 13.
First pic: with a group of friends on top of the Masada. I'm all the way on the left.
Second pic: reciting prayers for my Bat Mitzvah - I'm the one on the left.
But what goes up, must come down.
And that included me off the Masada...climbing down stairs.
The first few moments were okay...if I went slowly and it helped that my friends at first walked with me. But no one wants to walk with someone going slow; someone who mentally is starting to have a panic attack over this hike. No one can understand why someone has a fear of climbing down stairs; it's irrational. I got left behind.
Luckily as I was about to burst into tears, one of the tour guides from our group came over. He saw that I was visibly upset and I explained to him as much as I could my fear. As I shook in fear and panic, crying, he took my hand and he held it the rest of the way down and walked as slowly as I needed to go. It took extra time out of the day's trip but I'll never forget his kindness that day.
Because it took me so long with my anxiety and panic, I ended up being the last one on the bus holding everyone up. Everyone probably waited for me for at least a good 20 minutes if not more.
Throughout the trip, one of the girls on the bus for whatever reason decided to bully me. She took every chance she had to be nasty to me; making fun of me. I ignored as much as I could; I didn't engage with her. I wasn't going to fight.
Until that day.
After I got on the bus, still visibily shaken with a red, tear stained face, right way, there were jeers from her and friends. "Look at the baby crying. She can't even climb down stairs without needing someone to hold her hand." The laughing and pointing was probably one of the most embarrassing moments in my life.
In that moment, I'm not proud and yet I'm proud for standing up for myself. When she laughed at my tears and I walked by her to my seat; I snapped and punched her in the face. Not hard; I'm no fighter. But enough to shut her and her friends up. No one wanted to go near the crazy, anxious person who just punched someone in the face!
We ended up having fighting words that night in a lobby in a Jerusalem hotel. She was livid and I was tired of being bullied. My friends had to hold me back. But I fought and I stood up for myself. No one was putting Hillary in a corner!
I may not have conquer my fear of climbing that day (still haven't); but I learned how to truly stand up for myself that night and to show that despite my fears, I'm not someone to be messed with. Somehow I think that was the most important lesson I gained that trip.