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Doing Hard Things - Zipline Edition


I can do hard things, and you can too, to borrow a phrase from Glennon Doyle. From getting ready to send my baby to Kindergarten to juggling anxiety about resuming in-person life after being vaccinated against COVID-19, hard things are all around me and I am leaning in and doing them.

I recently got the chance to do a less serious hard thing with my older daughter and her Girl Scout troop. We traveled to Magnolia Ridge Adventure Park in Ethel for a morning of ziplining.

There are 15 girls in the troop, and rarely can our schedules all align, but something about this activity called to each girl and we had the full cadre of Brownies. Most moms were also on hand, and in our text thread leading up to the day, it sounded like every mom was going to do the ziplining as if it were no big deal. (!!!)

With a limited scope of imagination, I couldn’t be sure if I would feel comfortable being left behind while everyone else participated. Like, if the zipline was one way rather than a loop, would I have to walk behind/beneath them for hours? And in general I want to try to do hard things, at least in part to show my daughters that I can. Hard things are often where the most fun and enriching experiences can be found. 

As it turns out, the adventure starts and ends in the same place, and I certainly could have sat at the picnic tables and waited the hours, or even better just sent my daughter with the troop without going myself. 

After putting on all the safety gear, including a much-too-small but definitely “adult-sized” helmet, I paid close attention during the ground school. Unfortunately, I still couldn’t understand how the braking worked. We wore big work gloves, and the idea was in order to slow yourself down you would press a gloved hand firmly onto the line above you, letting the friction slow your speed.

It sounds so simple, and after seeing a video a mom posted later that showed the zipliner come toward the camera, it all made perfect sense. But in the moment, up in the trees on wobbly wooden platforms with a racing heart, it would not click for me. And being the heaviest in the group meant I went the fastest, and had the hardest challenge to slow myself down!

After the first line, the guide spoke harshly, trying to explain what I was doing wrong. My personality wilts under criticism even under the best of circumstances, but shaking and scared up so high it was much worse. I was also determined to keep it together for the benefit of the scouts, some of whom were conquering their own fears, so I did not give in to the tears that threatened to fall.

There were two ziplines that ended on the ground, so I was able to slow myself with my feet on those, which I found to be much easier. One time I accidentally did brake correctly, slowing myself just right to the cheers of the guide, girls and other moms. But the other five zips (there are eight total at this park), I was on the receiving end of more barking corrections from the guide, who I really liked and desperately wanted to please (another facet of my personality … why can’t everyone like me?!). I really screwed up trying to brake on one line, and a glove got caught under the trolley, smashing my left pinkie finger. The pain was shocking, and my finger was swollen and angry for a few days after. I knew it wasn’t broken so I didn't say a word to the guide or the other moms, powering through until I could get home to ice it. It’s mostly fine now.

At the end of the adventure, when I finally got to take off the too-small helmet, it had left an angry red mark on my forehead that lasted for hours and a soreness and tenderness that lasted a few days. My brain was literally being squeezed, so I can give myself a little grace for my failures to brake. With my feet back on the ground, I was shaken and just wanted to cry. I managed to make the trip back home (we carpooled so I didn’t have to drive) before I let the tears flow and felt recovered.

Have you checked out the longest zipline in Louisiana? I survived it! I did a hard thing, and I’m proud that I did. What hard things have you been up to lately?

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19 May 2021


By Mari Walker

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