Having finished my National Diploma in Business with such good grades, the next logical step was to apply to a university and carry on my education. This was never originally my plan (hence not being a list item) but everyone else was doing it (worst reason to do something, ever), so I applied for and was accepted onto a degree in International Business at Brighton University. Living with my flatmate at the time was making my life rather difficult so in-between finishing college and starting uni, Emiko and I moved to a small flat on the other side of town. As you can imagine, my bad habit of moving house right before or during big life events did make things rather stressful, especially since I now had further to travel to get Emiko to nursery before the 70 minute commute to Brighton. So, long story short, before the first semester was up, I knew that course was not the right course for me and that it was not the right time in my life to go to university.
I could have left right there and then. I would have, if not for one thing…we were shortly to be taking part in Team Skills Day, a day when students from similar courses are randomly grouped together with each other and then expected to learn to work as a team whilst competing various mental and physical tasks, one of which was abseiling. Abseiling had been on my list for a while and I hadn’t had any opportunities before, so I leapt at the chance, even if it meant putting up with uni for a little longer.
Team Skills Day dawned and I dressed in sensible clothing and shoes, packed myself a hearty lunch and made sure I had my camera. The coach journey was actually not too bad; I have largely outgrown my travel sickness although it does come back sometimes. On arrival, we were sorted into random groups. I only knew one person in my group and I was actually quite upset not to be teamed with my friends because I knew I was never going to see them again. Each group was assigned a leader and told we would be competing as teams for points for each activity we completed. I disliked our leader fairly quickly, especially when he told us that because he doesn’t think winning is important, his teams usually come last. I like winning and I didn’t want to miss out on activities because this guy wasn’t bothered. The first activity we tackled was belly crawling through what some people might consider claustrophobicly small concrete pipes. They were kind of wet and consequently we spent the rest of the day covered in mud. One of our group refused point blank to go through the tunnels even though it lost our team a huge number of points, so I was actually really glad when we got around to abseiling.
I wasn’t first up, so I got to watch a couple of other people do it before me. I was excited and I had that funny tingly feeling you get that’s half adrenaline and half nerves. When it was my turn, I left my camera with my group so they could take pictures and climbed the several flights of wooden stairs that led to the top. Part way up, it felt as if the tower was shaking. I was a little bit thrown and wondered what the hell was going on. Arriving at the top, I could see our group leader jumping around and shaking the stair rail. Maybe he thought it would add atmosphere; maybe he was just bored. Whichever it was, I really didn’t like our leader now. And there I was, about to dangle myself off a 30ft drop with only him to hold the other end of the rope. I looked him dead in the eye.
“You’re not going to drop me,” I said. It was a statement, not a question but I guess he thought it was because he started spouting semi-comforting stuff about how he would lose his job if he did. While he talked, he set up the rope through the karabinas in my harness and then began instructing me on how to descend. The most important things seemed to be keep your feet level with or higher than your hips and not to let go of the rope. Following his instructions, I put my feet on the edge and started leaning backwards out over the drop. This is the scariest part of abseiling. Once you’re in the right position, you just kind of half walk, half hop backwards. I actually did feel quite secure and was enjoying the treetop view immensely. It turns out, it doesn’t take very long to climb down 30ft. I felt like I had only just got the hang of it when I reached the bottom and I immediately resolved to abseil down something bigger one day.
And, yes, our team did come last in the points competition but even though we didn’t get to do all the things the other teams did, some of them didn’t get to go abseiling so I was glad I’d had the opportunity. I now plan to wait until St. Michael’s Hospice has their next abseiling challenge to raise funds and take part in that (they get people to raise sponsorship by abseiling down a 13-story office block). Ultimately, while the day didn’t go exactly the way I was hoping it would, overall I did have fun and I was happy to have a new experience under my belt.