Sarah Jane Alexander - Reader Blog 13

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Sarah Jane and Alvaro enjoy a beautiful summer day at Shuteye near Oakhurst, California. Photo by Rainer Stratmann

Sarah Jane and Alvaro enjoy a beautiful summer day at Shuteye near Oakhurst, California. Photo by Rainer Stratmann

I am the dot. Though barely visible, I am expanding. Expanding my worldly experiences first through my mind. I prayed to become the dot, though I didn't know it exactly. I just told the universe I was ready to make money by doing things I enjoy.

One day my friend Jayne called me and said, "What are you doing this weekend?"

"Sounds like you have an idea."

"How would you like to be in a Toyota 4Runner photo shoot? They need a male and female rock climber."

A talent company had called her at the climbing gym where she works and asked whether she could find several climbers for them to choose from.

I submitted some photos. Apparently they weren't too impressed with my photos or those of my bro Alvaro, who I wanted to be in the shoot with me – should I be selected.

The agency told Jayne they wanted more options. So they cast about for other talent in bigger cities such as L.A. and San Francisco.

"This is going to be an embarrassment to climbing," I thought. "They are going to pick some weak-ass noodle-armed model who can't climb stairs."

Then I got the call. I was chosen. So was Alvaro. I was stoked.

Till the day of the photo shoot.

Sarah Jane struggles on an overhang at Shuteye. Photo by Barb Sanson

Sarah Jane struggles on an overhang at Shuteye. Photo by Barb Sanson

The photographer showed me where he wanted us to climb. My stomach dropped. Clear blue sky shimmered over the Sierra Nevada gleaming in the background – of what I estimated to be an overhung 5.10.

I had a feeling I was about to embarrass myself.

Alvaro scampered up the rock like it was a sidewalk and put me on belay.

I grasped, breathed, tried to use my feet. But I was simply in over my head.

Then I heard voices shouting: "Go, Sarah! You can do it!" The photo and support crews were cheering me on. I was determined.

I pushed. I pulled. I shifted my feet. I grabbed new handholds. I went nowhere.

Knowing me well, Jayne said: "Don't get too pumped. You probably have to climb more today." I had to admit I was beat, not only in front of my friends but also the people who were paying me to ascend.

Kindly, the photo crew moved us to another rock. It still looked harder than anything I had done before, but at least the feet and holds were chunky. With a lot of focus and force, I climbed to where they wanted us to hang out. I was kind of disappointed I had to stop because I was about to send a solid climb.

Later, Jayne told me that the cheering was the turnaround of the crew asking why an alleged climber couldn't climb. Jayne told them, "You guys picked a really hard climb. I would have trouble with that, and I've been climbing a lot longer than her."

Like me before I started climbing, the crew probably thought that anyone who climbs is an unmitigated badass who can ascend anything. When they realized that I was undergoing a personal struggle, their compassion rose to nurture my soul – though it didn't help my technique.

In the photo, I'm a little dot on the rock.

The growth of my soul is not reflected in my tiny form. But the photo and whole experience are a manifestation of my inner power. My faith that I can have everything I desire is opening doors I never imagined existed.