Learning to Face Fear

Two years ago this week I did something my friends and family still don’t believe actually happened.

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I did the highest bungee jump in the world.

The jump was one of the main attractions while travelling along the Garden Route of South Africa, across its beautiful Southern coast. Three of my friends and I hopped in a car after finals to begin our trip – but I had already decided I’d skip the jump.

“I’ll just stay over on the side and take pictures of you as you jump! It will be great!” I told my friends over and over again, explaining my deathly fear of heights. I told them about how I wouldn’t go on rollercoasters or ferris wheels, and how even the escalators at the Metro stops in DC used to paralyze me with fear.

When the day finally came for us to drive to Bloukrans Bridge, Casey called in to make the reservations – and in a move that even surprised myself – I asked her to make the reservation for 4. We arrived at the bridge and I still hadn’t backed out. We paid our R790 fee (~$100 at the time) and signed the minimalistic waivers and I still hadn’t backed out.

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As we waited for our jump group to be called, we waited in the little bar and I sat with my back to the bridge. I didn’t want to think about what I was about to do – much less see it. We played cards to pass the time.

After our group was called everything became a blur.

We met up with about 10 other brave souls and my ears started ringing like they do after a concert or if you witness a large blast. Everything started to fade away and I was lost in my own thoughts. I stopped talking and grasped the bottom of my shorts tightly, as some sort of strange security blanket.

The next thing I remember is standing on the bridge and everyone staring at me. The instructor had just asked for “Jumper #59” and they were pointing to the large “J59” drawn in permanent marker on my outstretched hand.

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He told me I was first.

As I sat down and the instructors started hooking my feet up to the large bungee cable that would later be the only thing keeping me from plunging hundreds of meters into the ground, the rest of the group wondered if I could do it. They saw how scared I was. All of the color had drained from my face.

Will she be able to jump? Is she too scared? What if she doesn’t like it? Is she brave enough? Is she going to get sick? Will she regret it?

As I stood up and slowly crept my toes towards the edge of bridge, I wondered the same things.

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Now, two years later, I’m about to make another daring leap. I am leaving all of my family, friends, and most of my belongings behind to start a new life and a new career on a different continent, in a country I’ve never been to before where I’ll speak a language I’ve barely begun learning.

I don’t know what to expect once I make the leap.

People looking on are still wondering – wondering if I’ll make it, wondering how I’ll react, wondering if I can make it on my own.

This time is different. In the two years since my jump — since I challenged one of my greatest fears in the most literal way possible — I’ve learned how to face fear.

But it’s more than that now. I’ve not only learned how to face fear, but to crave it. To live for the excitement of trying new things and going out of my comfort zone. To setting enormously high goals for myself and having the confidence to know I’ll exceed them. To making changes to my life that hurt and take a lot of time to heal, but knowing it makes me stronger and a better person. I’ve learned that when I feel the most vulnerable, I have the most to gain and grow.

With only two months to go until I move to Morocco with the Peace Corps I feel like I’m back at that bar on the edge of the Bloukrans Bridge, waiting for it to be my turn. Except this time I’m watching everything with eyes wide open, palms outstretched to take everything in, embracing the ambiguity and excitement and preparation.

I don’t know what to expect once I make the leap.

And this time, I’m not afraid.

I’ve never been more ready for the rush.

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3 thoughts on “Learning to Face Fear

  1. I do think you know what to expect and you are well prepared. A confident, bright young woman who wants to make a diifference and this you shall do!

    Much love,

    Nonnie xo

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