I stood on the edge of the limestone cliff trying to convince myself to jump. I wiggled my toes on the uneven ledge and cautiously leaned forward to try to see the water below me.
We had paddled out in kayaks to this rock island in the middle of man-made dam near the farm we were staying with the intention of paddling and toasting to our last week in South Africa with cider on the water. That morning, when I learned the water in the dam around this island that juts out in the middle a good number of strokes from the shore was deep enough to safely jump into, I added this to my list of things to do that afternoon.
Like many things, though, the visualization of me sailing through the air and gracefully landing in the water below is much easier before I was standing on the edge of the rock face looking at the jagged rocks that seem to lean out from the side of the island waiting to catch me before I make it to the water.
When I was little, I was ace at talking myself out of doing things that I was scared of doing. I was that Girl Scout who climbed to the top of the 40-foot repel tower, only to climb back down later after seeing what the view looked like from up there. Only after years of missed rock climbs and ziplines and rollercoasters did I learn how to push myself into doing those things of which I was scared. It took years for me to stop allowing my fears dictate what I did and didn’t do. (Also because no one was ever able to legally literally push me into these activities.)
I still get scared. I was scared when I moved to college. I was scared when I boarded a plane to Benin. And I was scared while I was standing on top of that rock island in the middle of the dam.
But then, I jumped.