This I Believe

Megan - Allendale, Michigan
Entered on February 6, 2007

I’m afraid of almost everything. Seriously, I give myself anxiety attacks. I usually drive the speed limit, I am terrified of heights, and I loathe extreme sports. It’s not that I’m a phobic. I have received speeding tickets, gone on roller coasters, and even parasailed once. I hate venturing outside of my comfort zone, but I do it anyway. I’ve always believed in taking chances. Discovering how far I can push myself, challenging my mind and body. Regardless of the consequences, that’s what life is all about, right?

During the summer of ’05, I accompanied my sister to West Virginia to visit my family. My cousin came up with the brilliant idea to go white water rafting for the day. Naturally, I didn’t want to go, but my sister was psyched. I swallowed my fear, suited up and piled into the raft along with nine other rafters. After about thirty minutes of paddling along the serene river, I began to become more comfortable. Even after listening to my cousins’ ranting about the multiple deaths which had previously occurred on this river, I was at ease. These stories were clearly fabricated. This wasn’t extreme sporting, it was a leisure activity.

Eventually we approached a rapid called the “Meat Grinder”. It appeared to be another weak rapid. Against the guide’s recommendation, I didn’t secure my foot in the raft’s harness. The Meat Grinder had an enormous rock hidden underneath one of the falls, which caused the raft to twist and flip from the rear. I was ejected from the raft and thrown into the vacuum of the rapid. I felt my face skate across a series of jagged rocks before losing consciousness. I awoke at the top of the river, swarmed by paramedics who rushed me to a nearby hospital. I suffered a broken nose and a mild concussion. It took me almost two months to fully recover from the accident.

An incident which should have amplified my fear of extreme sporting ended up suppressing it. I took a fall, but I came out stronger, braver, and more confident. But this is how we get through life. We suppress fear through facing it. I could have died on that adventure, and I knew the risks long before I climbed into that raft. After the recovery, I was free for the first time. I felt invincible, though I know I’m not. I’m still afraid of everything, but I’m going to live before I die. Really live. I’ll probably get another speeding ticket, go on another roller coaster, and maybe I’ll decide to skydive. You’ll never find me on that river again, but I was there once, because I believe in taking chances.