I was surprised to find myself once again perched on the edge of a cliff, legs quaking, about to take a leap of faith. It seems only natural that, like most of us out there, I am terrified of heights. I suppose, like any fear, it is only natural. After all, avoiding heights ensures survival, right?
The first time I found myself perched at the edge of a cliff I was at Victoria Falls on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. My friend had boldly leapt off head first just moments before, thrilled with the experience, showing off her daredevil streak. My stomach was flipping like pancakes at an I-Hop. Clearly my daredevil streak was completely broken. The views were stunning, but I was too nauseated with fear to appreciate them. ‘What if the rope snaps?’ I thought. I peered down at the abyss, ending far below with a bank of sharp looking rocks. I pictured my bones and skull cracking open on said rocks, my stomach lurched.
When the time came, strapped in tightly, I approached the edge. I thought for sure I’d never jump. In fact I knew I would never jump. The guide abruptly counted down with speed and forcefulness, as if without a doubt in his mind it was happening. 54320 GO! He shouted as he gently guided me off the edge. In the thirty seconds of free fall I was horrified, this is the end, I thought, surely. As I hung limply and loosely at the bottom, waiting to be pulled back up to the top, I vowed never to do anything like that ever again.
So what on earth was I doing here? Why, and how, had I ended up in this situation again? I marveled at my ambition for adventure, and how it had once again overridden my fear. I was about to paraglide off of a mountain top in West Africa. My pilot stood behind me, patiently explaining the relatively simple instructions. The contraption lay spread out behind us, a colorful assortment of strings and a glider. This time there would be no rope, just hanging in mid-air. We casually jogged down the hill and the gust of wind lifted us into the air.
If I am consumed with fear, I can’t appreciate the view.
The sites were gorgeous, the views spectacular. The pilot’s chattering behind me eased my nerves. As we glided for almost 25 minutes I relaxed into my seat, taking it all in. I had no fear. My life was in the hands of a man with almost 20 years of experience in the paragliding industry. Not a simple rope that could snap. When I landed, I was sad it was over. This, I thought, I would be more than happy to do again.
The thing that helped me conquer my fears, ultimately, was knowing that I was in safe hands. It’s a belief I hope to carry with me going forwards, into other aspects of my life. That knowledge that I am indeed in safe hands. If I am consumed with fear, I can’t appreciate the view. I must believe that God, fate, chance, whoever is driving has plenty of experience navigating the wind. I’m prepared to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.