A few years ago I jumped 20 feet off a waterfall. I didn't leave my Aunt's rest house that day thinking that, oh, I'm about to do something I've never even thought of doing before. I wasn't even wearing swimming clothes. I thought my cousins and I would just take a walk! But I did it because I was already there after an hour of wading in mud and encountering questionable insects. The worst thing that could happen was that I would drown (I'm not a strong swimmer), or maybe get a nasty parasite from the water. No big deal, right?
As I slowly inched to the edge, all I wanted to do was walk away. I didn't have to do it. I was just fine where I was. I thought about how murky and deep the water looked, about how too far my cousins were to swim to me should I start drowning. What if I get a concussion from the impact or worse, hit a hidden rock in the bottom of the pond?
Then I saw how all the kids were having fun at the foot of the falls. They were swimming like frogs and giggling like it's the best freakin' day of their lives, and I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be bigger than my fear because that's just what it is - fear. It's not a solid thing that's holding me by the scruff of my neck. It's more like rain, a gust of wind, or lightning off in the distance.
It will pass over me and through me. Only I will remain.
So I stilled my doubts and jumped. I splashed deep in the water. I panicked a little at this point, I thought I would drown, surely, there's no more air and I couldn't see anything. That's silly though because I remembered that I am not able to physically sink. Put me in any body of water and I will float. So I stopped panicking, floated, and then when I had my bearings, swam to the banks.
This is one of the best things I've ever done. This small, literal leap of faith has guided me in many of my decisions since. Whenever I feel like panicking, or when I'm about to drown in disappointment, pain, grief, regret, and loneliness, I remember that moment I jumped off a 20-foot waterfall.
Here's the complete passage from one of my favorite books of all time:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”