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Picture this: a young boy of merely twelve standing atop the tallest Alp in Germany. He’s surrounded by strange people who speak and dwell in a manner entirely foreign to him. The thin cold air stings his lungs, yet it fills him with a feeling of pride; this is the very land his fore-fathers stood upon decades, ago. His spine straightens and his chest swells with the satisfaction that can only be obtained from the exploration of one’s heritage. By some strange twist of fate, over hundreds of years of turmoil and pilgrimage, he treads the very ground that his kin sacrificed so much to depart from into the mysterious New World. As his parents call his name he takes one last look out upon the icy, powder covered land of his past, and now his present. This boy was, and still is, me.
When I turned twelve my grandparents, my parents, and I took a trip to Europe. We ventured through Latvia, a small country off of the coast of the Baltic Sea, down through Bonn, Germany, and finally to our final destination at the Zugspitze in the middle of the German Alps. As we rode the tram to the peak of this enormous mass I couldn’t help but be scared for my life. As our altitude increased my courage plummeted. While my parents calmly looked out of the tram at the gorgeous view, I huddled in a corner praying until my brain felt as if it would cramp.. As we reached the summit I could hardly stand from the terror that had seized my being. After several long minutes of convincing from my parents, I slowly emerged from the safety of the metal tram car. Immediately my breath caught in my chest. I stared out over the threshold of the nearest cliff into…nothing. We were nearly ten thousand feet above sea-level! That’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, let alone a vertigo-stricken preteen. They say that you can see seven different countries from the tip of this spire of rock, but all I could see was stars. The combination of my fear of heights and the thin mountain air had rendered me completely incapacitated. I sat on a bench and clenched a nearby pole for what seemed like a lifetime. When I finally gathered the courage to stand again I saw the peak for what it truly was: the closest thing to heaven on Earth. At that moment I felt closer to God than I ever had in my entire life. My fear of heights was completely replaced by an intense sense of joy. As I watched the light reflect off of the pure white, snow capped peaks, I was no longer terrified, but rather fascinated by the intense beauty before me.
This experience truly changed my outlook on life. This sheer natural beauty opened my eyes to a whole new world. No longer would I let fear govern my life as I had on that mountaintop. I learned that in order to truly see the most amazing things in life, you must break down a previous mental wall (such as vertigo). I sincerely hope that for the rest of my life I can continue to destroy these barriers and truly live life to the fullest.