Overcoming Unexpected Barriers, or The Time I Swung Off A 40′ Cliff

Adventure, Confidence, Fear, Joy, Story Time

I stood at the edge, peering over the cliff into clear aqua water and thought Am I really going to jump? It’s not that high…look at that guy floating on his back. Even old people are doing it.

A war of fear and logic whirred through my mind.

Fierce determination dampened it.

“I’m jumping…but not from here,” as I looked over the edge, a swirl of muck obstructed my otherwise pristine entry. “It’s a sign. I’m not jumping into that,” I said.

To my left lie the ladder and two platforms with rails like cattle chutes. “I’m jumping from there,” I said pointing to the rusty grate and dilapidated rails.

“Okay,” N replies, patiently waiting at the top. “I’m jumping after you; I don’t want to be treading water for an eternity.”

I stuck my tongue out at him before walking to my entry point.

Entering the narrow chute, not more than two and a half feet across, I felt both comforted and trapped.

I can’t back out of this now, there are tourists behind me and jumpers below—they’re all watching.

I knew that if I looked down, if I hesitated, if I waited, I wouldn’t go or I’d be standing there for a hundred years only to turn back with head hung low.

So I steeled myself, looked out on the horizon, and counted down.

No room to question, no room for doubt.

I set my mind on going—1,2,3…jump.

Normally I scream but, with all the people, I didn’t want to flaunt my fright. However, my hands betrayed me—flapping and fluttering wildly on my 3.2 second descent (or however long a 40’ drop takes).

Plunging into the water, I opened my eyes to a flurry of white effervescence and floated to the surface.

Expectantly I looked up at N on the edge. He jumped quickly, no fear.

With faces covered in broad smiles and adrenaline on high, we swam back back into the cave cloaked in quiet.

The water was so blue and clear it looked like it’d been lit from below and, in this cavern that belonged in a pirate novel, I looked to the back half expecting to see glints of gold.

All my fear fled with the decision to jump—only elation, adventure and awe remain.

Looking around I thought, What treasure we’ve come upon, what beauty.

After a precarious scramble onto a ledge and a moment of marveling at the sounds of water and smell of salt, we dove into the water and swam to the ladder.

“Do you want to climb first?” N asked.

Why yes I do, thank you very much.

Nothing could have prepared me for that ladder.

Metal, slick and hinged in 3 places, climbing that ladder is a confrontation with fear itself.

My face was a foot from the jagged cliff while my hands death gripped the half inch metal bars.

Whatever you do, don’t slip. Just keep climbing.

After 20 feet or so, looking down is a terrible notion and looking up feels even worse, so I chose straight ahead, one rung at a time.

I inched my way up the cliff face, swaying uncomfortably with each rise.

Almost at the top, I had to negotiate the transition from ladder to platform, which involved switching my grip from the familiarity of horizontal to the high risk slip of vertical.

I made it over the edge, practically crawling, and waited for N to ascend—the tink-tink-creak of the ladder my only indication he still moved. Eventually he stepped onto the platform.

My arms were shaking, my heart pounding and I said to N, “That was way scarier than the jump.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said, “I didn’t want to mention that before you jumped.”

And isn’t that the way of life?

Saved by naïveté.

We’re capable of so much more than we believe of ourselves. Hell, I probably could have climbed the rock face if I had to.

Sometimes the only way to surmount fear and move forward on your desire is to set your mind on a single action and go for it without trying to anticipate ten steps downline.

Because there’s no way to predict what barriers will arise—trying to mitigate them all before beginning is what keeps us stuck.

I didn’t know what lay on the other side of that decision to jump. Had I known, maybe I wouldn’t have gone. And I would have robbed myself of an incredible experience. Because I’ll never forget the cerulean waters or the time perched on the ledge with my love or the total freedom of swimming in nature’s house.

The jump and the climb were worth it.

They’ll be worth it next time too.