Never in my life did I ever think I would be looking down onto a host of clouds. But there I was standing on the top of a volcano alongside hundreds of tourists from around the world; and most importantly holding my 10 year-old daughter Kennedy’s hand. This story began two weeks ago while vacationing in Maui, Hawaii when the concierge casually mentioned an inactive volcano, named Haleakala, that was one of the world’s most beautiful places to visit at sunrise.
There is on major detail that I forgot to mention regarding my adventure to the top of a Hawaiian volcano with Kennedy. I am profoundly scared of heights and to see the sunrise at Haleakala you have to venture 10,000 feet up the side of the volcano! Let’s put 10,000 feet into perspective. The George Washington Bridge is approximately 604 feet above water. The Empire State Building, one of the tallest buildings in the world, is 1,250 feet tall. A few other significant details to mention regarding the adventure up the side of Haleakala are: (1) the winding narrow roads, and; (2) the 3.5 hour drive to the volcano, which meant that I had to awake and leave my hotel room with Kennedy at 2am and drive in our rental car into pitch black darkness!
What made me venture out on this adventure despite all of the above?
I asked myself three questions.
- Do you really want to see this place that everyone has been raving about?
- Do you really want Kennedy to see the sunrise?
- But, the most important question was, will you regret it if you do not go?
An hour into the drive and things were stable, but as we reached 1.5 hours into the drive I felt fear creeping into my consciousness. At about 1,000 feet up the volcano, I realized what I was getting myself into. The steepness of the climb became more apparent and daunting. My heart began to pound. At 2,000 feet, my palms began to sweat profusely. At 3,000 feet, my stomach was in knots and I wanted to turn around. My motivation to see the sunrise on top of the volcano had now diminished and was replaced by pure fear! I wanted to turn around so badly! At 4,000 feet, my heart began pounding and my heart rate quickened, and it was so dark, but then I glanced over and Kennedy’s eyes were filled with such hope and expectation that I mustered the courage to continue up the mountain.
Fear/Hope/That Magic Place
As I continued to drive, strengthened by Kennedy’s childlike wonderment at the adventure we were taking together, I prayed and chanted sayings to keep my nerves calm. At 7,500 feet, however, I seriously thought my life was over! What further strengthened me from 7,500 feet to 10,000 feet was me not giving up on myself. The strength and courage to continue came from somewhere deep within me, an inner place that I didn’t know I had or had been dormant for some time. It came from the same inner place that made me not give up on myself when I was a teen mother and had to confront the reality of having my daughter, Alleea, at such a young age. This was the same inner place that made me believe in myself when I was completing my college studies and the same place that I rely on when I feel a loss of hope.
I did it!
I made it to the top of the volcano and I have to tell you that my reward for facing my fear was unbelievable. Being 10,000 feet up a volcano makes you feel like you are one with the sky and part of the universe. Kennedy and I twirled around and acted like we were touching the stars. An hour later when the sun was rising I couldn’t believe my eyes. My eyes teared with joy as I saw the sun rise through the clouds. How majestic it was…my heart was so full! I glanced over to look at Kennedy and I thought, she will always remember this day.
The Bottom Line
I then wondered …”do I really have a fear of heights or do I have a fear of truly living to my full potential? “