Bungy jumping, or some form of extreme free fall, has been on my bucket list for a quite a while. My thoughts are, if I can push myself to accomplish something that I am primally afraid of because there is the threat of actual, physical death (even if in reality the threat has been mitigated such that there’s a higher chance of dying when crossing the street), then I can do anything. Public speaking, heartbreak, salary negotiations? Oh, please.
With that in mind, I signed up for bungy jumping on the last day of my trip to New Zealand. It’s easy to put your name down for something far in the future, pat yourself on the back, and forget about it, but eventually time catches up with you. A few days prior to the jump, I felt the regular anxiety that sets in before any big speech, performance, or event (petty things that I was shortly never going to be afraid of again). Not overwhelming, just an undercurrent of unease that once in a while rears its head up and whispers, “Psst, 2 more days.”
Eventually, it came time to check in on the day of the jump. I signed my life away with a couple of waivers, got weighed no less than three times (the crew recorded it in huge numbers on my hand for all to see, but nobody cares about disclosing their weight in the face of potential impending doom), and found myself standing in line for the platform, in the middle of the Kawarau Bridge.
Not thinking about it helped to control the anxiety, and I did a fairly good job of suppressing my fear as others disappeared off the ledge before me. I was fine as I stepped into the harness, fine as the crew bundled my ankles up in a tightly-strapped towel, and fine all the way up until I stood up and hobbled my way past the railings and to the end of the platform.
Then I looked over the edge.
And then I was 100%, completely and utterly not fine. Excuse me, you’re saying I have to to — What? Oh…sure, smile and wave over here. Now wave over there. Okay, back to what I was saying, I–
Now or never. I spread my arms, tried to remember to go upper body first in a swan dive, and used every ounce of will in my body to propel myself forward.
Immediately, every thought that had been running through my brain got replaced with just one: “#&@% WHAT HAVE I DONE??” But there was only a split second of sheer terror, after which — well, I mean, I had already committed, hadn’t I? I resolved to enjoy the experience, but it doesn’t take long to fall 43 meters. Before I knew it, I was already bouncing back up “like a helpless, dangling piece of meat,” as a friend so flatteringly put it.
The whole ordeal took only 40 seconds. 40 seconds between tipping over the platform ledge and laying in the safety of the floating raft below. 40 exhilarating seconds that caused closer to 40 hours of quiet, slow-creeping anxiety, but also a disproportionate, unquantifiable amount of accomplishment and joy.
Bungy jumping, check!
I proved to myself that I can push past my fears to accomplish even a death-defying goal (I know, I know, I wasn’t actually going to die. But please humor me). Now, when I go to give my next presentation, prepare for my next interview, or find myself making the next life-altering decision, I… well, I’m probably going to feel just as anxious as before.
But I did glean one important lesson from the experience, which is this: JUST JUMP. The longer you stay on the ledge, surveying and contemplating all of the horrors that might befall you, the more afraid you get, the more willpower it takes, and the less likely it is for you to follow through. The key is to take action before your mind even has a chance to process the fear. And before you know it, you’re spinning through the air, having the time of your life.
You’ll also end up with a pretty great story to tell.
Video of the jump here, with funny commentary by a nearby Chinese family: