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Caroline standing on the million dollar stairs, gasson in the background, with an "on mountains" sign.
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Authentic Eagles: Caroline Rooney on Mountains

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our true selves. Embracing our individuality can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being one’s authentic self at BC. We hope that readers are inspired to have conversations and reflections of their own, working toward being more authentic individuals.

Caroline Rooney, MCAS '19

I made the mistake of looking down. Pausing to readjust my climbing poles, I inspected my surroundings. On either side of me, the fence siding of the metal bridge was curled upwards, leaving gaping holes that led to a hundred-foot fall into the bottom of a waterfall.

My vision started going blurry, trembles ran through my body, my breathing rate increased, and I was sick to my stomach. I was paralyzed with fear. As I looked ahead at the rest of my group members successfully crossing the remaining hundred yards, I realized I had to gather my poles, lift up my head, and pick up my pace to cross the bridge.

My mind raced at a million miles per hour as I forged ahead. This was only the first of ten days of trekking, the first of who knows how many bridges, and we were only going to climb higher. How could I ever make it to Mt. Everest Base Camp if I was this terrified so early on in the trip? I swallowed my fear, steadied my breathing, and made it across the bridge. With the largest sigh of relief, I looked back at the bridge, took in the moment, and congratulated myself for accomplishing the first of what would be many difficulties on the trip ahead of me.

When I signed up to trek to Everest Base Camp with Choose a Challenge, a nonprofit charitable organization, I was met with a lot of questions.

“Aren’t you afraid of heights?” “Do you have hiking experience?” “How are you going to do that with your asthma?” “But you don’t like airplanes—how are you going to fly halfway across the world?”

To a lot of people, I was crazy. But I was doing exactly what I signed up to do: I was choosing to challenge myself. I wanted to face my biggest fears head-on, push myself to the limit, and prove to myself and everyone who supported me that almost anything is possible when you don’t let your own fears stop you.

It’s not every day that you confront your biggest fears. But sometimes the mundane, everyday tasks we face can be incredibly daunting. That big midterm around the corner, the paper you’ve been putting off, that intramural game you’re anticipating, the job interview you’re not sure you’re prepared for—all of these tasks pile up.

With graduation less than a month away, the “adult world” is my next big mountain to climb. What will I do? Where will I live? How will I maintain the friendships I’ve made over the last four years? What will I do without Lower's breakfast potatoes? As I experience my “last” everything at BC, I know that the inevitable “first” of so many things awaits me after graduation.

This knowledge is met with equal parts excitement and terrifying expectation. Being at BC, it can be hard not to compare yourself to others. We are surrounded by some of the brightest and most successful students, and it can be difficult not to get caught up in others’ success and put yourself down. It can be so easy to look at your peers and wonder why you didn’t get the same grade on an exam, or why they’re employed while you can’t land a job interview.

During these situations, it is essential to build yourself up by taking a moment to appreciate the things you have accomplished. Instead of getting caught up in my own fear and anxiety by comparing myself to others or letting the everyday tasks build up, I reflect on my personal successes. So much of fear is rooted in a fear of incapability, but by reminding myself of what I have achieved, I remind myself of what I am capable of.

By building up self-confidence through congratulating myself on personal accomplishments, I break down the mental barriers I’ve built up. As cliché as it sounds, I believe you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. On Mt. Everest, I faced some of my biggest fears, but with each new accomplishment, my fear grew smaller and smaller because of the growing confidence I had in myself.

Whether I’m challenged with hundred-foot bridges in Nepal or the mysterious void of post-grad life, I know that I can tackle the mountains that lie in front of me, as long as I don’t let my fears stand in the way.

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