The thing about me is that I’m a wimp. A scaredy cat. A wuss. (I’m also a redhead, but that feels irrelevant.)
I’m someone who changes lanes on the highway if I end up behind a lumber truck, convinced one of the two-by-fours is going to come unstuck, crashing unceremoniously through my windshield and impaling me thoroughly, gruesome Final Destination style.
I step gingerly out of the shower every day, one foot delicately placed on the plush, heather-grey bath mat, and then the other, trying to avoid a slip on the slick porcelain floor of the tub that will surely result in me shattering my skull. (The paramedics would be surprised when they found me, though–the crack in my cranium would probably just be oozing nacho cheese and dry martinis.)
And I hate heights. Open-slatted stairs are my greatest enemy, especially the wrought-iron, winding variety, and after one flight, my ears fill with white noise and my vision blurs. Vertigo. (Luckily, there’s no spinning orange vortex à la Alfred Hitchcock.)
But during the Life Hooky trip in March, something snapped. I snapped. And despite every single cell in my body telling me it was a terrible idea, I found myself hauling myself up the wrought-iron, open-slatted stairs of the catamaran onto the top deck, the thigh-high railings doing absolutely nothing to calm my fears.
I was going to jump off the edge. I wanted to be the sort of person who jumped off the edge. I wanted to be the sort of person who wanted to jump off the edge.
And hedging forward, I got in line, watching countless other people pencil-dive into the Pacific, casually stepping off the ledge like they were strolling into the grocery store or crossing the street.
But me? I was making pseudo-joking pleas into Ash’s GoPro that should I die, I wanted Mindy Kahling to play me in the made-for-TV movie. I could feel the blood pounding in my ears. And I knew, with absolute certainty, that jumping off the stupid side of that stupid catamaran was going to be one of the hardest things I’d ever done.
There’s something to be said for the discomfort that comes with facing your fears. With seeing the possibilities separated in clear-cut black and white. A) I could jump. B) I could climb back down the ladder and go back to being comfortable.
But comfort doesn’t catalyze change.
Easy doesn’t facilitate success. And doing what you’ve always done means you’ll be who you’ve always been. (I think we can all agree that stagnation isn’t sexy.)
So despite the fact that my legs were so weak I couldn’t actually feel them, my pulse had found the rhythm of a hummingbird, and my hands were literally vibrating with fear, I walked to the gap in the railing. I curled my toes over the ledge and watched the gentle lulling of the waves.
But instead of going limp, simply stepping off the side and haphazardly falling, I tensed my thighs.
I gripped hard with my feet. And I grasped the railing on both sides of me tightly, taking one last inhale, and pushing off with everything I had.
Was there an OH SHIT, WHAT HAVE I DONE?! moment before I smacked the water so hard it took my breath away? Absolutely. But I knew–just as surely as I knew there’d be a bruise on my ass from the impact–that by taking a literal, physical and forceful leap, I’d changed a little piece of myself forever.
It’s easier to stay where we’re at. To stay who we are. To stare unaffected out the window and watch the world fly by.
But we weren’t built for biding our time or sitting complacently in back seats. And it’s time we not only walk into the unknown, but jump full-throttle into fear, let the briny ocean salt water flood our throats and sting our sinuses, and feel proud that–just for a second–we’ve proved our past selves completely and totally wrong, putting down that first red brick on a new & noteworthy path.