I remember being a young child, maybe nine or ten,
and I was at some sleep away camp, and there was this lake for swimming.
We all ran down to this cliff-like area,
and the kids all started diving and jumping off this cliff,
that probably wasn’t nearly as terrifyingly far away,
as steep a fall, as I remember it being.
It seemed a thousand-foot drop to me,
in my memory it was miles long, I was terrified.
Many of the kids were older and bigger than me,
and certainly more well-seasoned in life,
and likely every single one a better swimmer than me.
Which isn’t saying much.
One by one they ran up to the edge, and kids in the lake
and on the cliff were all shouting as they each, in turn, jumped.
The line moved, pushing me along and before I knew it,
My turn was up. I was there, standing on the edge.
Everyone shouted, people behind me,
anxious and excited for their turn,
and those down in the water. All looking, all shouting.
All eyes on me.
I heard someone say, “Come on, everyone is doing it,
there’s nothing to be afraid of!
It’s fun! Just jump!”
So, I took a deep breath (which I had time to release,
then take again on the way down).
So, so far down.
I saw the water coming closer and closer to me
and made it a point to gasp in a lungful of breath
just before hitting the water.
The impact knocked the air out of me
and I just went down and down.
I wanted to gulp in air, but there was nothing but water,
Finally, I stopped going down and began to rise.
I kicked and crawled and kicked some more,
trying my best to keep panic at bay.
“Everyone’s doing it! It’s fun!”
But it was all pure panic
and anxiety to me.
Finally, my head broke the water
and I shot up, gasping for air,
amazed that I was still alive. I coughed,
I choked, then began to make my way over to the ladder.
I dog-paddled to the ladder to climb back up, and this ladder was so
Intensely straight up and tall and it felt like
Trying to climb all the way to heaven.
But I remember for one fleeting second, when my head broke the water,
there was this voice.
It said, “You did it! You did something you were scared to do,
something you’ve never done before.”
It was so fleeting, and so buried over with sheer panic
and deep breaths. But it was there.
Later, and at many times throughout my life, I’ve thought,
“What the hell was I thinking?! That was too steep,
too far for someone like me
with my very limited swimming skill.”
If it hadn’t been for being swept up with the crowd,
If anyone, any one at all, had bothered to ask me
If I wanted to jump
I’d have said, “No way, I don’t swim very well.”
I would never have been interested in doing it.
But I’d been swept away in the moment.
I hadn’t been given the chance to really think it through.
I remember this moment so frequently.
I remember, I did it, and I didn’t die.
It was one of the scariest moments of my childhood, and
I did it. If I’d thought about it, at all,
I never, ever would’ve made the leap.
I over-think. Always. It’s in my DNA.
But oh, that feeling.
Coming up out of the water. Cheers and applause.
I jumped. I did it.
I didn’t die.
I try and remind myself, sometimes I need to stop over-thinking,
and just take that damned step.