“Lean back! Keep your head back!”
These were the last words I heard as I took what I honestly thought could be my last breath before my head was submerged in freezing cold water.
When I signed up for canyoning the day before, I had somehow conceived this idea that canyoning would be “easy”; that navigating my way through rapids with only my body “wasn’t going to be that hard.” I was wrong. Canyoning is the epitome of extreme sports. From repelling off ledges to back flopping into a river, nothing is without danger. I thought that due to my prior athletic endeavors, this would be a piece of cake. But as I’ve come to learn with CR, you can’t expect things to be easy. You have to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable and push yourself past boundaries you once thought held you back. As we traversed down these Swiss rapids, this became all too evident. Despite my own personal inability to keep my head above the water, I watched as Emma continually conquered her fear of heights. Though each jump was a mental challenge for her, it was so inspiring to see her confidence increase exponentially from her initial repel to her final jump. Each time she came face to face with heights, she made a conscious effort to overcome an obstacle. Each time, she didn’t let her fear define her. Each time, she decided to be comfortable being uncomfortable. As we finished our canyoning endeavor, we realized that our extreme sports adventure was more than just that. Interlaken was going to test us in ways we had not yet seen during CR. Our growth wasn’t to come from our analysis of the world around us, but an analysis of ourselves as we wrestled with personal fears and stepped out of our comfort zones. This brought upon the biggest test of all: skydiving.
I knew when we got to Interlaken I was going to go skydiving, no questions asked. (This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that knows me. I live for the thrill.) It wasn’t until I was fully suited up waiting for the first group to drop from the sky that I began to wonder about the dark clouds rolling in from the distance. Having waited on the platform for nearly two hours, I was going to be extremely disheartened if this once in a lifetime experience fell through. Luckily, the lady at the front desk assured us that we could drop through rain, just not lightning. As I stood wondering whether that should be reassuring or concerning, I saw the first group fall through the clouds. One by one, I watched as their parachutes opened. Once all six opened, my nerves from their plummet subsided and once again, I focused on the incoming clouds.
“Please hold off.”
This was my one shot, I wasn’t about to let a little rain ruin it. Fortunately for the remaining six of us, the crew made a quick turn around and we ascended 13,000 feet over the Swiss countryside.
“Wait, is that lightning?”
I told my mom before I left for CR that skydiving in the Swiss Alps wouldn’t be the worst way to go. Though I only said this to be dramatic, when my feet fell over the side of the plane and lightning flashed in the distance, I began to retract that statement. With one last prayer, we dropped from the sky. Despite having always thought the most enjoyable part of skydiving would be once the parachute opened, I found that I never wanted to stop free falling. It was exhilarating. In that moment, all burdens were gone. Every difficulty I was facing was out of my mind. The thought of being struck by lightning didn’t faze me. The only thing I was focused on was appreciating the beauty and treasuring the moment. After about 45 seconds, the parachute opened and we began our five minute descent back to land. Just like that it was over.
When I began this blog post, I thought it was mainly going to be a summary of one of the most unforgettable moments of my life and for the most part, it is. But as I look back and reflect on that day, I’ve come to realize that it was so much more than just an exhilarating experience. May 26, 2018 was the day I learned to be humbled in my strengths, to celebrate one another’s accomplishments, to support one another in times of need, and to appreciate every moment we have on this earth. I found that life is a lot like skydiving. It may be scary at times and there may be some lightning along the way, but with the support of people who love you and care about you, you can make the leap of faith and take a chance on getting out of your comfort zone. Once you’ve leapt, you’ll wonder why you never did sooner and it’s not until the the end that you’ll realize how fast time flies and you wish you could go back and do it again. Looking back on freshman year and even CR, I can see how much this rings true. Life is too short to live in fear of what could happen. I can either choose to live in fear of the <1% chance of getting struck by lightning or I can take a chance and have the time of my life. I think I’ll choose the second.