Thursday, June 21, 2012

Flying High... Or, Diving In Head First

A few weeks ago, I was at a local swimming pool where I do water exercise (more about that in a few weeks).  Down at the other end of the pool there are diving boards.  I noticed a boy who was about 13 years old.  He was chubby with shaggy red hair and freckles.  He wore a large t-shirt and I noticed him because he kept circling the diving board, putting one foot up on the ladder rung then stepping off. He did this throughout the entire hour of my class.  His friends were racing up the ladder, running down the diving board and leaping off while squealing with delight.  It looked like a lot of fun and I saw the wistful look on his face, coupled with worry and a little bit of fear.  I recognized that look - I wear it all the time.  Toward the end of my class, he finally worked up the nerve to climb up the ladder and step onto the diving board... and all the lifeguards began blowing their whistles - the pool was closing.  He looked back at them and they were telling him to get off the diving board.  Jump, I thought to myself, you're already there.  Just jump.

Instead, he turned around, climbed down the ladder and disappeared into the locker room.  My heart broke a little bit for him.  I know that feeling all too well - being afraid and unsure and finally mustering courage to take the leap only to find out the moment has passed.

I'm not a thrill-seeker.  I don't like roller coasters, I have zero desire to bungee-jump and sky-diving is right behind death on my list of things to do.  I don't have a bucket list and I don't have a very adventurous spirit.  The extent of my risky behavior is sneaking snacks into movie theaters (and even sneaking into the occasional movie), driving over the speed limit and having un-paid parking tickets.   Granted, I've made a lifetime of bad choices, but as far as being adventurous goes, I'm pretty boring.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I were at the San Felipe Fiestas.  One friend jokingly dared me to walk off with a five-gallon water jug, just to see what would happen.  We laughed it off and later she and other friends poked fun at me for getting nervous at the thought of walking off with the water jug.  Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not very outgoing and in fact, I'm pretty shy.  I'm a performer and a writer who shares parts of my life, but in all actuality, I am somewhat reserved and very private.  It takes a long time to get to know me and I don't give up a lot of myself very easily.

Balloon shadow along the Rio Grande 

Just jump...  I am not a complete prude.  I'm not a thrill-seeker, but I'm quite brave.  I quit my job without a plan because I knew I wanted to do something more with my life.  In 2009 I drove across the country in a U-Haul with my niece (before that I had barely driven a few hours out of Albuquerque) and I have spoken out in public forums when people would rather I just shut up.  I've walked away from relationships and friendships that were toxic and I open myself again and again in this blog.  I have performed poetry (alone and with my band) in front of hundreds of people.  Without realizing it, I've jumped more times than I can count.  I don't always land on my feet, but I always get back up.

Regardless of courage, I have regrets in life.  I've made some big mistakes, lied, and hurt people, and I'm not proud of that.  I didn't go to school out of state and I've never traveled abroad.  I sometimes regret that I didn't have children when I was in my 20's and I regret relationships that I wasted time with and others that I didn't invest enough in.  I know that it's better to learn from mistakes rather than live with regret, and I'm getting there, but regret still rears its head from time to time.  While I understand fear of failure is what paralyzes me, I sometimes think it's fear of regret that holds me back from trying new things and spreading my wings.

Last week I went on a hot-air balloon ride with some friends who were visiting from out of town.  It was, in a word, amazing.  Floating above the city early in the morning and watching the sun rise gave me an indescribable peace.  Living in a city that hosts the largest balloon fiesta in the world, I have heard plenty of stories of people crashing in balloons and getting seriously injured and sometimes even dying.  I put the stories out of my head and went up in the balloon.  When we had a scary landing (and felt like we were going to tip over in the basket) I tensed up and felt very afraid.  When we finally landed safely my heart was racing and my thighs were sore from tensing up so much but I also had a sense of accomplishment.  I wasn't the person who flew the balloon, nor was I responsible for the safe landing, but I was proud that despite my fear, I flew in a hot-air balloon, and I have no regrets in doing so.

I was at the swimming pool recently, and I saw the same boy.  He hung around the diving board again, but this time, before it was too late, he climbed up, walked to the edge of the diving board and jumped.  I silently cheered and almost cried.

It's never too late to jump.

Next time: Remember the Tin Man 

1 comment:

  1. I love this one! I started to tear up for the boy too! I really love the line "Without realizing it, I've jumped more times than I can count. I don't always land on my feet, but I always get back up." I feel very similar to myself. I'm a fairly cautious person and would categorize myself as shy as well but when it comes to writing I can open up in ways I can't seem to spoken verbally. I think that you take different kinds of risks and as long as you learn from those mistakes that is really what matters.

    Thank you so much for the reminder that it is never too late to jump. I'm about to embark on a new phase of my life and I needed the reminder to be brave. You are brave Andrea, even if you aren't going sky diving.