When I hear the word "adventure," I usually envision a positive experience. Traipsing over new territory, catching my breath at gorgeous vistas, feeling the thrill of discovery. Sometimes I forget that a true adventure carries an inherent risk-the chance that something horrible could happen at any minute. I remember huddling in prayer with some girls from my high school track team at the start of the meet. There were storm clouds threatening, and were dreading the prospect of running in the rain. The girl giving the prayer started out normal, asking that we would be given mental and physical strength to run our races. But then she added, "And please bless that this will be an adventure." We all audibly groaned. We didn't want an adventure at that moment. We wanted the rain to go away so we could run our freaking races.
I didn't want an adventure that Tuesday in May. My little brother and I were going rock climbing for the first time this season. I met him up in Rock Canyon, and we hiked up to Red Slab, one of our favorite spots. Spencer opted to lead the first climb, and I was relieved because lead climbing is terrifying. He got a few bolts up the route, clipping in his carabiners as he went, before realizing that this climb was a little bit out of his comfort zone. I was belaying him from below and could see his feet start to slip. I couldn't decide whether to start pulling in the rope; if he wasn't about to fall, pulling in the rope would make sure he actually did fall, but if he was falling, pulling in the rope would let me catch him faster. And then...he was falling and I could feel the rope feeding through my hands and he was screaming and then...the rope caught and he was hanging and everything was okay. I caught him. He was okay.
But when I lowered him, he wasn't okay. He had kicked the wall hard on the way down and couldn't put weight on his foot. He winced with every step we took down the mountain trail, and by the time we'd made it a hundred yards, I could see he was crying. My tough, triathlete brother was crying. And it was my fault. I was his belayer. I was his big sister. It was my job to keep him safe and I had failed. If I had started pulling the rope in sooner, would he have been okay? Could I have made sure we started on an easier route? Some good Samaritans on a morning hike helped me carry him down the mountain and into my car, where I drove him to the urgent care clinic. I texted our parents and my husband, terrified that my mom would be mad at me for letting her son get hurt. I tried not to let Spencer see me cry. I think he was doing the same for me.
The X-ray revealed a broken ankle, one that would probably require surgery. I had to explain to every doctor and nurse we saw that Spencer is my brother, not my husband, we don't live together, so maybe giving me the instructions about his pain medication and what specialist to call was a bad idea. And then we were back at his apartment, eating ice cream with his roommates, and I was finally able to go outside and call my husband and burst into tears of guilt and fear and too much adrenaline. And Aaron came home from work early just to give me a hug (I married a good one), and my mom came over to check on Spencer and also to make sure I knew it wasn't my fault and nobody was mad at me. And Spencer, the eternal good sport, made jokes and smiled and helped me feel okay.
And now it's been three months and he's out of his cast and doesn't even hate me. Even though having a broken ankle could have ruined his summer, he just kept going: SCUBA diving, traveling the wold, even competing in a triathlon (minus the running portion). But I've let it get to me. I haven't gone rock climbing since it happened. Maybe I need to. Because having adventures does mean something terrible might happen. And sometimes, something terrible does happen. But what kind of life is it if you let that stop you from stepping out your front door and doing the things you love?