“Darr Ke Aage Jeet Hai,” – Beyond Fear Lies Victory.
This Hindi saying, shared with me by my Indian friend Naren on convincing me to jump off a 160-meter bridge, is quite apt.
While some may disagree, I have realized in recent months how many of my decisions have been motivated by fear: fear of public perception, fear of death, fear of rejection, fear of regret. I’m not afraid to take risks, moving abroad and backpacking solo for nearly a year across Asia is evidence of that, but that doesn’t always extend to all parts of my life.
For me, bungy jumping was never even a consideration.
Aside from the fact I really had no interest in the activity, my mother had firmly ingrained this “bungy jumping is dangerous and equals sudden death” mentality into my head since I was a child. That stuff runs deep.
But the minute I landed in Kathmandu, Nepal and saw the bungy advertisements, something changed. My birthday was coming up, and somehow that firmly ingrained idea of “never” changed into “wouldn’t it be crazy if…” While 28 has never been considered a milestone, this birthday was coming near the end of my once-in-a-lifetime epic journey throughout Asia, and I knew I wanted it to be special.
Still, this was a long shot. Even if my thirst for adrenaline were to eventually rise to bungy-level, I was still on the white water rafting/rock climbing/parasailing stage, bungy jumping was an exponential leap up.
When I met up with Naren and semi-jokingly put forth the idea, I should have known better than to ask a guy who runs adventure sports camps for a living. His very enthusiastic “Yes, we’re doing it!” scared the daylights out of me. Though my reply was “Let me think about it,” my sharply rising anxiety levels told me the decision had already been made: I was going to jump.
For days my fake indecisive self was stressing. I suddenly found the need shop constantly and eat everything (how many momos are too many? ;)) and sleep was fleeting.
The night before, waiting last minute to hand over my $100 to the bungy agency, signing a “you-realize-you’re-jumping-off-a-bridge-wearing-only-an-elastic-band-it’s-not-our-fault-if-you-die-insane-person” waiver, my crazy levels rose yet again. I began running all over Kathmandu asking every person I met whether or not they had ever jumped from a 160 meter bridge and what they thought of it, while constantly chanting (or rather butchering) “Darr Ke Aage Jeet Hai” (luckily Naren is a very patient person and found my nuttiness rather amusing).
And then, the big day. The craziness peaked.
Aside from death, I was more realistically afraid of the intensity of the adrenaline rush and if the free fall would be too much for me, leaving with me memories of extreme terror and a fear of heights I did not have before.
But on the lovely five-hour bus ride through the mountains (which realistically, is WAY more dangerous), I decided that I could control my reaction to how this jump turned out and whether or not it would be a positive or negative experience. If I chickened out, I not only lost $100 but my pride. I was going to own this jump. Like a boss.
Step 1: Sleep deprivation. Deciding to pack four hours before your scheduled bus departure puts you in a loopy enough mood to soften the reality that you’re about to plunge yourself over a bridge into a massive canyon.
Step 2: High energy dance music. Probably the most fun part of our bus trip was Naren and I riding up the last strip rocking out to Rick Astley, Queen and Motown (“ ‘Cause baby there ain’t no mountain high enough…” ;)) working ourselves into a manic frenzy to prepare ourselves.
Step 3: Don’t think. Just do.
When we finally reached the resort, I think everyone in the bus had a moment of “Oh $%!#! Are we actually doing this?” And then it was the briefing: stand here, hold this, don’t look down…
While I had actually signed up for traditional bungy, I opted last minute to switch to canyon swing, an equally terrifying jump in a harness that would put less strain on my bad knee and offer twice as long free fall time.
And then it was time to walk the plank. To my surprise, the line moves along rather quickly, and I was running out of chicken out moments. Harness on, inches from the jumping platform, I asked the jump master to give me a second to catch my bearings. He smiled and said, “Don’t worry, you get three.” Very funny, that one.
As Naren waited a few feet behind me, anticipating a highly-dramatic, song-and-dance freak out routine, my mind went suddenly clear. I felt the pull of the canyon line, looked ahead to the mountains and did the only action required of me: I jumped.
The minute you step off the platform the decision is made. No more freak outs, no more opportunities to back out, all you can do is sit and enjoy the ride. And what a ride it was.
Like a second before, my mind went blank, I didn’t even scream. Instead, I felt my eyes get very large as I took in the blurry mountains, trees and river that were rushing by all around me. For seven seconds, I was weightless, and though it was by far the biggest adventure rush I had ever had, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be. And when I felt the harness catch (yay, I survived!), the leisurely swing through the canyon provided one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.
But more incredible and unexpected than anything was the immense sense of satisfaction I felt afterward. I had faced my fears and won. And the feeling was truly victorious.
While it was only a jump, freeing yourself from the control of fear is one of the most liberating feelings ever. I’d like to think now that it will be easier to apply this “jump” to other aspects of my life as well.
If not, I suppose I can always try again. Skydiving anyone? 😉