*Written in 2016, before I quit my job and headed off on the around-the-world trip that inspired BackGetters.
My feet inched closer to the edge. Four-hundred-and-forty-feet below was the river, surrounded by brown jagged walls of stone and sediment. All I had to do was jump. Each step was microscopic, not just because my feet were harnessed together, but because I was terrified of the awe-inspiring task that lay in front of me. “Look straight ahead because down is scarier,” my guide told me. “The longer you stay up here, the harder it gets.”
Did I really just pay money to attach myself to a bungee cord and hurl myself off of a platform suspended by cables? It went against every sensible cell in my body. But a voice inside of me kept saying, “Take a leap, and have faith that the universe will catch you.”
It was the last day of my two-week tour of New Zealand. Getting to the jump site required a 45-minute shuttle ride through winding dirt roads, with high mountain walls to one side and a steep drop on the other. I thought of the irony of the bus tipping over and falling off the edge of the cliff. After driving on the left hand side of the road through most of New Zealand’s rugged terrain, placing my life in the hands of a rubber band seemed safer.
We arrived unharmed at a small one-story building where we were re-weighed and fitted into our harnesses. Our group of about 12 was ordered by weight, heaviest to lightest. I would be the last to go.
We left the building and followed a path down to a wooden platform. From here, the jump site looked like a small house made of metal and windows, suspended by wires in the middle of a vast canyon. I grabbed on to a wooden railing nearby, afraid if I didn’t hold on, my trembling body would collapse.
A cable car was used to transport the group out to the jump site, but since it was small, we split into two groups. I was in the second group to go over, and by the time we reached the jump station, the first person had already jumped. I did not want to watch. I did not want to look down. I did not even want to think about why I was out here until it was time for my turn.
Once my name was called, one of the guides made sure that all of my harnesses were secure, and helped me into the ankle cuffs. I sat in a chair that reminded me of something at the dentist. While the bungee cord was attached, the previous jumper was reeled in. I stood up and paused to take a deep, shaky breath.
I held on to the guide’s arm with one hand for security. This was obviously not the first time someone tried to take him down with them, and before I knew it, his arm was gone from my grasp. I frantically tried to reconnect to him, but he was more experienced and eluded my desperate hand. He tried to coax me forward, to get my feet all the way out on that tiny platform, surrounded by sky, so that my toes were touching the edge.
“Wait, hold on,” I said, not sure if this was such a good idea anymore. Sure, I had gone skydiving before, but that was totally different. I was attached to someone much larger than me, and had no choice when we stepped off the plane. This was solely up to me. I had to be the one to take that step.
“The longer you stay up here, the harder it gets,” my guide said. “Now Christina, I’m going to count to three, and when I get to three, you are going to jump.” I felt myself nodding my head, and my brain went into autopilot. He was going to count to three, and I was going to jump. That’s it. Simple. No need to obsess about the what-ifs and every wrong thing that could happen. Take a leap.
“Three.” I felt my knees bend, ready for lift off. Suddenly, there I was, whizzing through the air! I could hear the wind whipping past my ears and all of the fear was gone. I did it! The hardest part was over. When the bungee reached full extension, it gently pulled me back in the other direction. There was a beautiful silence as my movement slowed—I looked at the magnificence surrounding me. This is exactly where I am supposed to be at exactly this moment.
The following week, I was back at work. Sitting at my desk felt painful, like I was shackled to my chair. The restlessness that was a slow murmur before the trip to New Zealand had turned to a loud roar. This was not how I was meant to live my life. This is not where I am supposed to be. But where? I wrestled with this for a few weeks, and then it came to me. Take a leap. Traveling is where I felt my bliss. Sitting here, I was wasting time. I decided to take a year off and travel the world.
Once that decision was made, I felt lighter. Too often we let our fears parallelize us and prevent us from taking that leap towards our right path. Sure, there are a number of things that can go wrong on my adventures, and it will not be a perfect journey, but it is where I am meant to be. Looking straight ahead. I will need to be my own guide, providing that calm voice of reason when the irrational fears creep in. I know that I am up for the challenge, and I have a renewed faith that as long as I am being true to myself and following my true path, the universe will be there to catch me. One free-fall at a time.