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The view always gets scary before it gets better

Laker Notes


ZHANGI once heard someone say that no one truly fears heights. Rather, one fears falling.

I’m not interested in arguing semantics, no matter how much I appreciate diction and the English language, but all I’m thinking about when I’m 500 feet off the ground is: “Oh no oh no oh no oh no” and “What font should I use for my will?”

Yet despite my belief that humans are not biologically meant to be suspended half a mile in the air, it hasn’t stopped me from visiting countless towering landmarks during family vacations.

I’ve ridden an elevator to the top of the Seattle Space Needle (and spent every photo spitting my hair out of my face, courtesy of the wind); I’ve tentatively peeked over the side of the Empire State Building in New York City (valiantly clutching my mom’s hand the entire time); I’ve stumbled across the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, B.C., (my knuckles still have not returned to their normal shade); and I’ve climbed the steps of the Great Wall of China in Beijing (which I only spent about 30 minutes on, and waited in the gift shop area for the rest of the three hours.)

As you can see, I clearly made the most out of every occasion.

Fine, I didn’t. Which is frustrating to look back on. My fear of heights has kept me from experiencing things to the fullest in so many situations. And every time it happens, I berate myself for not being strong enough to overcome it.

When I went to Arches National Park in Utah this past summer, however, that changed. Because on June 19, I hiked up to an elevation of 480 feet, scaled a narrow rock ledge for 200 yards, stood at the base of Delicate Arch, looked down into the vast canyon and felt no fear at all.

There were no sweaty palms, no racing pulses — just a silent awe, a deep respect for the infinite strength and beauty of nature that nothing could ever emulate.

I don’t know why I wasn’t paralyzed by fear that day. Whether it was exhaustion, a miracle or simply a chemical reaction in my brain, I may never find out.

Whatever it was, it made me fearless, if only for a moment. And I know I’ll do anything to feel that way again, even if it means 17 more years of lofty space needles and suspension bridges. Because some things are too important to miss.

I still haven’t figured out whether I’m afraid of heights or of falling. But who cares? I’ll take them both. I don’t have time to sit here and argue semantics — I’ve got mountains to see.

Lake Oswego High School senior Serena Zhang is one of two Laker Notes columnists. She is one of the new columnists for the 2016-17 year, and this is her first column. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..