Jumping out of planes, onto strangers’ jetskis, scooters and bikes without helmets… not something that the old me would have done.
Before I turned 30, I realised that I had spent the first 30 years of my life fearful, cautious and in control (or at least attempting to be). I never did anything extreme… The thought that I would be 60 within the next 30 years, and practically at retirement age, shocked me. I started rethinking what I wanted in my life!
I grew up scared – of everything. The fear of failure meant that my grades at school were good – because I spent so much time studying; fear of rejection meant that I never put myself out there, in case someone did not like me; fear of uncertainty meant that I rarely ventured where I was not guaranteed some measure of control. It meant that I lived life as a spectator… always watching, but very rarely participating.
I decided that the way to overcome this fear was to go skydiving! I started my research, calculated the cost, but never got around to doing it. There were a lot of fears that I had to face before I actually made the jump – 3 years later.
At the time of my resignation, I was petrified. I so desperately wanted to go, but I was almost paralysed by the fear of the unknown. There was a battle of wills between two personalities in me – the one, cautious, careful, controlled. The other, wild, carefree and at ease with uncertainty. The former had been in charge for most of my life. The latter was screaming to get out, no longer willing to be silenced.
Somewhere along the way, I started to give this ‘other’ me a bit of breathing room. A bit of space to just be. I surprised myself when I jumped on a jet ski with a stranger, just because he offered! I love speed, but water and speed… Something in my head had changed. There is only this one moment, this one life, and I had to live it. After that, doing crazy, unlike-me things that excited me, came almost naturally. What was the worst that could happen?
“ … the fears that push you about are not legitimate, appropriate responses to What is, such as warnings of danger ahead. Instead, they’re the constricting fantasies of What if… The next time a What if starts badgering you, look it straight in the eyes and ask it, ‘All right, what’s the very worst that could happen?’ And when it answers, ask yourself, ‘What could I do about it?’. You’ll find there always will be something. Then… you can have power in any situation. And when you realise that, the fears will go away… because the power comes from you. (From The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet )
I finally made my first tandem jump – in New Zealand. I was scared on the way up, climbing to 12 000 feet – my mouth was dry, and my heartbeat was so loud that I thought my tandem-partner would hear. And then we jumped… the first 20 seconds of the jump was exhilirating! I still don’t have words to describe what it feels like to freefall at 200km/h. I wanted to scream, ‘f**k, this is incredible’, but could not get anything out. And then the parachute opened, and everything slowed down. I did not want it to end. When my feet hit the ground, I knew that I was addicted, and that if my budget was not an issue, I’d go back up again!
Skydiving is not the thing that has taken my fear away – but, its become a reminder of what I can do. It kickstarted something in me – a desire to live, to participate. I only have this one life, this one opportunity to do this thing… if there is even the remotest spark of interest – do it. I will never have the moment back, and life goes by too fast to sit around and do nothing.
I could only laugh when I read my horoscope this morning: “You’re a thrill seeker, Aries. As an impulsive Ram, you often look for activities that will kick up your adrenaline.” I had just come back from an exhilirating and fast bike ride – with the island’s rev head! The thing is, I love speed. I’m not quite an adrenaline junkie… but fast cars, fast bikes, and jumping out of planes – there’s nothing like it to remind you of the moment.
Arriving in Jakarta, however, gave new meaning to the idea of “facing your fears”. More on that in the next post.