Steep happens.

Last week, I visited the town of Samobor.  It is located 25 km west of Zagreb which lies on the eastern part of the Samoborsko gorje Hill Range along the Gradna River.  I wanted to visit Samobor because it is the home of the famous desert called kremšnita.  For years I’ve wanted to eat the custard dessert at U Prolazu.  That was my goal.  Eat kremšnita.  

We headed to Samobor on the first sunny day after my spouse and I arrived in Croatia.  It was a Saturday morning, and all the cafes were packed.  Using my kremšnita fueled sleuthing skills, I surveyed the outdoor seating area to predict which of the customers sitting outside in the sun,  drinking coffee slowly, and enjoying the dessert would leave so that we could swoop in and grab a coveted spot.  

That’s when my spouse suggested that we climb the hill and explore the castle ruins and then return to the caffe.  I looked up and saw the castle in the distance.  The hill was steeper than I’d expected.  Here’s a little secret about me.  I don’t love to engage in physically daring activities.  In fact, I often avoid them unless I connect to a deeper “why” that I prioritize over physical risk. Whereas, my spouse loves those kinds of adventures.  I usually look down for danger underfoot and miss what’s up ahead.  It’s one of the metaphors that rings true.  

I knew that I needed caffeine courage before beginning the journey, so we walked to another cafe (without kremšnita!) and made a plan to climb the hill.  We prepared for the trip earlier by watching videos detailing which way to climb and which to avoid.  Yes.  That’s how I roll. Research is my default comfort.  

One macchiato and 60 minutes later, we followed the signs to start the short 220-meter journey.  It shouldn’t be a problem, I thought.  I hike sometimes, I thought.  My curiosity would distract me from the physical exertion, I thought.  That was my plan.  

You guessed it.  Even with our strategizing, we ended up on the steep side of the hill.  At one point, I thought I might need to crawl and avoid tipping over backward.  No guardrails.  No railing.  No steps.  No support except the branches and rocks that I used to balance myself.  It’s funny to recall it now, but at the moment, I fluctuated between nervous laughter and fear.  I forgot about the ruins, the view, and my beloved kremšnita.  My new goal was to make it to the top without injury. 

I also knew I had to go forward because turning back was an even more dangerous option.  I reached the top of the hill because of the support from my spouse’s hand and my safety instinct.  For the record, I don’t enjoy sweating, but I didn’t mind how drenched I was that morning because I felt proud, playful, exhilarated, and excited to explore the ruins.  I earned that sweat. 

The view of Samobor and Zagreb county seemed even more beautiful.  The ruins were more expansive than I’d expected.  

I felt like a trailblazer for myself.  

I was the single beneficiary of my courage and persistence, and I was enough.

We spent an hour at the top of the hill and then found a safe descent.  We took the long way to U Prolazu where I savored every bite of my kremšnita. After years of wanting to go but playing small by not going, after going but taking a steep detour first, I felt fulfilled.  

This is the real story, and it’s a metaphor.  Here’s what I learned.

  • Courage precedes confidence.  We take the courageous step when we’re scared to build courage.  
  • While going backward is tempting, it just might be more dangerous than going forward.
  • Researching someone else’s strategies does not guarantee success for you.  Too often people who identify as women are socialized to cede their authority to “experts,” research, and systems not designed for us.  What if we’re our resource library?
  • Trailblazers need partners too.  We’re not meant to do it alone every single time, and you don’t have to.  Know whose hand you can trust to offer support when you feel like the steep is throwing you off your balance.
  • Trailblazers need partners too.  We’re not meant to do it alone every single time, and you don’t have to. 

Know whose hand you can trust to offer support when you feel like the steep is throwing you off your balance. Steep happens and you can handle it. I believe in you and I believe in me.

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