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September 10, 2015

Just Jump: A Lesson in Working with Fear.

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You’ve probably been encouraged time and time again to, “Just jump into the moment!”

People make it seem like it’s just a choice, and that you can seamlessly switch off the part of your brain that tells you this is a bad idea. They all make it seem so easy. Why can’t it be that easy for me? Why can’t I just let go, and not worry about what people think?

These troubling thoughts continue tumbling through my head as I stand, feet planted looking upward at the tremendous climb ahead of me, so I start to nervously count the rungs of the ladder. One…Two…Three… too many to count. I can faintly hear encouraging words being said to me, but it’s nothing compared to the vicious voices inside my head.

I shake my head to clear the voices, and suddenly feel a surge of determination. I’m going to do it! I place my hands on the rung above my head, place my foot on the rung below me, and suddenly I’m off the ground. I move upward one rung, two rungs, I’m doing it!

I take it slowly at first, one rung at a time, the farther I go the more I think that this was a terrible idea. I’m slowing down, Step, Stop, Breathe. Step, Stop, Breathe. Step, Stop, Breathe. Suddenly I reach upward to grasp the next rung, and there’s nothing there. I look up, and I see that I’m at the top. I’m at the top! This is it.

I slowly climb my way up onto the diving board, clutching the railing tightly on both sides of me. Slowly inch by inch I make my way along the slippery board one foot at a time. I move slowly along until I reach the edge.

I perilously peer over the edge of the board, and finally get to see what awaits me at the bottom. There beneath me lies an entire pool of possibilities. I could have fun. I could make friends. I could have a fun new experience. But, on the other hand I could also drown. I could look stupid. I could get laughed at. I close my eyes and whisper to myself, “You never know what’s going to happen until you just do it.”

I close my eyes, take three small steps, and suddenly the board is no longer under my feet. I’m falling. It feels like the falling lasts forever. The fall wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t that incessant anticipation of what will follow. So many things are going through my head in that moment, so many possibilities. I must be close now; any moment I’m going to hit the water, so I clench my muscles waiting for the impact. Out of nowhere it happens. It hits so suddenly, all of the breath is knocked from my body.

I’m underwater.

I can’t breathe.

I’m drowning.

After a few moments of twisting and turning about in the water I start to give up. Please help me. My internal pleas for help are interrupted as I feel a large hand grab onto my forearm. I feel a tug as my body is pulled upward, and gasp as my head breaks the surface of the water. I’m gasping for air, filling my deprived lungs with oxygen. I look around to find my savior, but the pool is empty. I’m all by myself.

I spend the next few moments looking around trying to find who pulled me up. I don’t even care, because I’m here! That’s all that matters. I pushed myself into a situation I wasn’t fully comfortable with, and I’m fine. Sure, I’m not great, or fantastic, but I’m here and I’m okay. It was all in my head. It wasn’t that scary at all, but my tendency to take time to think about terrible outcomes holds me back.

I swim quickly to the ladder to get out of the pool. I climb out and stand dripping wet on the edge of the pool. Even though I’m wet and cold I still have that feeling of accomplishment that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I walk away from the pool, but I stop to take one last look at the diving board that changed so many things for me.

As I stare up at it, all I can think is, “A diving board is nothing, let’s go skydiving next time.”

 

Relephant read:

What It Means To Be Fearless.

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Author: Quinn Hensley

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Flickr/Megan Tedrow

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