Explain an experience that defines you.
My harness was tightened. My sweaty hands clutched onto the bar. My toes dangled off the edge of the platform. Every horrible outcome to this scenario raced through my mind. “Whenever you’re ready, Gabby.” All I had to do was lift my feet and I’d zoom away into the woods, only supported by a cable. I held my breath, and leaped off. I was leaping to my freedom, and to my future.
In the winter of 2015, a friend invited me to YoungLife, a Christian ministry that reaches out to adolescents throughout our community. She was one of the few friends who knew my struggles with anxiety, including my compulsive fear of fainting and the horror of finding myself in large crowds. She thought I would benefit from a growing community of support from people of all walks of life. Doubt filled my mind as I saw this opportunity as another failed attempt at a cure, yet I was willing to try. Monday night was here all too soon, and as the doors to the club room opened, I was greeted by an overwhelming amount of high fives from leaders of all ages. Cheers filled the air, and my first reaction was to flee. I felt the crippling physical changes in my body as the panic set in. A band played Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” as the crowd of high schoolers feverishly sang and danced without a care in the world. My introverted self quietly clapped along as I watched the laughing and comaraderie turn to confusion in my mind. I wondered how they did that. How did they feel this comfortable as they danced shoulder-to-shoulder, with such little oxygen
Not long after the chaos diminished, bibles appeared and discussions ensued around topics I had never heard before. My brain told me I did not belong, but my heart was reaching for a “place.”
I was hesitant to return, but my friends insisted. They displayed that kind of persistence that indicated a higher power was at work. I decided to return a few weeks later. It was nearing the spring and everyone was talking about camp. We were encouraged to sign up. “There’s no way I’d do that,” I told myself.
Three months later, I stood in a crowded parking lot waiting to board a bus that would take me to Carolina Point, one of many YoungLife Camps, and the furthest away from home I had ever traveled. My anxiety had kept me caged for so long, and this was my chance to prove I could escape from the torment that ruled my life. I tearfully hugged my parents and boarded the charter bus that would take me to a new existence. After the 20 hour, anxiety-ridden bus ride, I spent the first night lying in my bunk shivering with terror. I was going to be in this completely foreign place for a whole week, with people I didn’t know and events I could not predict. My leader noticed and sat with me in the living room as I broke down. I said “I’m so scared” many times, just as a child would. She reassured me that the events on tomorrow’s agenda would help occupy my mind and quell some of my fears. I hoped she was right. I knew this trip would involve a zip line activity, and I was dreading that day. She couldn’t possibly mean that this was happening tomorrow! I soon discovered that this was exactly to what she was referring.
The fateful day arrived, and I knew I could choose whether I wanted to do it or not, but the pressure mounted as each rider flew to their invisible destination. After being harnessed and helmeted, I boarded the rickety tractor to the lift. It was my turn. As I teetered on the edge, I realized that this was the moment. The moment that I knew would change my life forever. As I closed my eyes and let my feet slip from the platform, I felt my fears, worries, and anxieties drift away as I moved further away from the base. I welcomed the life that waited for me on the other end. That day strengthened my commitment to persevere in the face of hardship. I credit this to the YoungLife community, who has given me the opportunity to tell my story and introduce other high school students to a better life through God. I am now a YoungLife senior leader, and I have approached life with a new perspective; fear will not rule my life, because my life will rule fear.