(Final Exam Essay)
Always keep going, keep looking forward for your next step. Don’t look down, don’t look back, and remember--there’s always something to grab hold of. I remember the first time I tried rock climbing, it was amazing. It felt like I was facing my fears--no--more like facing myself. Keep going--keep climbing--remember that there’s always something to grab a hold of. If you repeat those words to yourself to yourself you can make it to the top. Your team is always there with you, no matter what, and they will never fail you.
Times were tough in my house during my last two years of high school. I had finally come out to my mother and father and they were none too happy, my sister had changed and I couldn’t really talk to her anymore, and my mother was looking into--of all things--conversion therapy. Coming out was one of the hardest things for me to do, and the fact that my mother was not handling it well didn’t make things easier. I tried telling them the "best" way possible, I tried to sit them down and explain that I was still their daughter and nothing would change that, but they wouldn’t have it. After many years of feeling like a freak I had finally come to terms with myself only to have that torn down by my parents. I felt like I had nowhere to go, but I tried to look on the bright side.
Then it came time to face the rest of my world, a.k.a. my friends. I hadn’t told a single one of them yet. We were all at the diner one night--as we always are--and the moment just felt right. I took a deep breath and dove in. "Guys, I have something to tell you." I was met with laughter of all things. I couldn’t understand why they were laughing! "Is this the part where you FINALLY tell us you’re gay?" my one friend asked. I was in shock. After agonizing over when to tell them, after nights of worrying if they would accept me or leave me, they knew! They explained to me that they had known since the day they met me and they were just waiting for the day I was comfortable enough with myself to tell them. I don’t think there has been any other moment in my life so far when I felt more loved and more safe than that night with my boys--my team.
I explained to them about the situation with my parents and how I was torn over what to do about it. I didn’t know whether to go along with my mother’s conversion therapy to make me happy, or stand my ground and be proud of who I was. My best friend, Radeeb, told me to meet him at his house the next morning fully packed for the weekend. He didn’t tell me where we were going.
I asked my mother if I could go and she reluctantly agreed. The next morning I met Radeeb and we got into his car. I was kind of worried to say the least. Radeeb and I have always been the more adventurous of the group, so I didn’t know what he had planned. After a few hours of driving we wound up in Fawn Lake Forest, Pennsylvania. We checked into the cabin we had for the weekend and he told me to get dressed in some warmer clothes and go outside for my beginner’s training. That’s when I saw the rock wall. It was HUGE with sharp edges and steep drops. It didn’t look fun. It didn’t look like beginner’s training. I decided I was not for dying any time soon so I went back to the cabin and sat on the comfy HORIZONTAL bed. Radeeb was furious. He came in the cabin and yelled at me. He told me to go on with "conversion," that I wouldn’t be able to stand my ground anyway so I might as well back down. I cried, he yelled more, and he finally got me up.
Beginner’s training was on the ground thankfully. They explained to us the dynamics of the harness and how to grab on to rocks properly (not that I ever thought there was a right or wrong way to grab a rock). Before we began the climb our professional Mr. Mallia hit us with the infamous pep talk. He began with a quote--"Courage consists of being able to hold on one second longer." He told us we had nothing to fear but ourselves and that as long as we put our faith in our team and our team’s ability to help us through the rough spots we would be okay--there would be no reason to turn back. That speech hit me harder than if I had fallen off the rock wall. I couldn’t not climb after that. It meant so much, and I knew I had to try this. It was hard. There were times we had to stop because the rocks were difficult, but we worked as a team and got through to the top. When we got up there I realized it wasn’t so high--well, it was high, but not as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was just high enough for an amazing view. It felt wonderful. To know that we had earned that view was one of the coolest feelings ever.
While I was climbing I made up a mantra to keep myself going. "Keep going. Don’t look down, don’t look back, and remember there’s always something to grab on to. You can always rely on your team." Today those words are still with me. I decided to stand my ground with my mother--to keep going. I realized that even if it was rough with her there was always something to grab on to, my team--my friends. I don’t look back on the bad times anymore and I know no matter how rough it gets I’ll always have my team.
"Courage consists of being able to hold on one second longer," and I held on, I hold on. I learned that day that the only way is up and if you put your faith in your team and yourself it’s not always as high as it looks but it’s high enough for an amazing view.
LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Fall 2005
[Posted with permission of writer]
The following instructions were part of the final exam; students had 75 minutes to complete the writing task:
Alan Sillitoe’s novella "The Loneliness of the Long-distance Runner" incorporates the sport of long-distance running as an extended metaphor.
Write a short story, or personal narrative essay (500-750 words) in which you incorporate an extended metaphor involving a sport (not long-distance running--Sillitoe has already done this, and you would be just echoing his story), such as baseball, basketball, swimming, football, etc., or other hard physical activity.
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