Anatomy of a Freefall
It all began with Curiosity – how would it feel to freefall off a 35 feet high waterfall cliff? And along came The Fears – teasing me to face and surmount them. And as an all-important Guest of Honour, in walked Common Sense – getting right to the point and asking what was at stake here and was the experience worth the risk. And then this happened:
Rochester Falls, Mauritius
Disclaimer: Exercise caution. Results may vary
And as life would have it, someone up there really likes me and I lived to blog the tale.
Call it a leap of faith or a crossing of the fine line between bravery and stupidity, a year later this is a memory of one of my wildest moments – one long moment – that serves as a reminder to me that I’m bigger than my fears and that life has my back. It took a good half hour and watching many others bravely make the jump and gleefully survive it, before I finally mustered the right mix of nerve, excitement and propulsion (very important!) to throw myself off the slippery edge of the cliff. Reaching the water below took much longer than I’d expected and I remember wondering on the way down – like a restless kid on a road trip – “Are we there yet?” And getting “there” after what seemed like a looong freefall meant hitting the water hard enough to sink way low and taking forever to clamber up to the surface again, gasping and grateful for all the morsels of air I could grab at. For someone with well-entrenched fears of heights, drowning, accidents, injuries and what-have-you, this was more about facing those fears than about getting an adrenaline rush out of an extreme sport. It was a leap off my fears as much as a leap off the slippery edge of a 35-foot high cliff, and a leap I knew I could trust, thanks to the many brave locals and fellow travelers who made it look doable and ‘survivable’ when done a certain ‘right’ way with that rare superpower called common sense.
I’m in no way advocating jumping off cliffs to face fears or for anything, and I wouldn’t do it again myself, but we all have moments when something that has long been quietly knocking inside finally propels us outside our comfort zone – and the longer that quiet inner knocking, the more drastic the propulsion is likely to be. I’ve been praised and admonished in equal measure – by well-meaning people close and afar – for this jump and I take them both with spoonfuls of salt. Because no external opinion on anything I do is as well-informed as my reasons for doing the things I do. After a good number of metaphorical cliff-jumps in life (with career choices, matters of the heart, and other ‘big’ life decisions), an actual physical cliff-jump felt like the next stanza in my song, not a mindless adrenaline shot for the heck of it. A year down the line, I’m glad to report that the song has grown louder, wiser and richer with every turn of phrase and wheel. I marvel at how potent a certain mix of curiosity, conviction and common sense can be when you let it propel your choices.
Nowadays I’m working on freefalling out of the rat race I find myself unwittingly in sometimes. And that seems like a bigger risk – with a more thrilling reward – than any waterfall in the world could give me. As Tom Petty sang – I’m gonna free fall out into nothing, Gonna leave this world for a while.
May you make, sing and live your song as fully as your spirit desires – not one stanza less. Isn’t that the the whole point of it all?