Every Labor Day weekend my family camps with about fifty of our closest friends down on our neighbors’ land. We all spend the weekend watching football, building ridiculously large fires, eating and drinking . . . a lot, and swimming in the lake. There’s a homemade dock at the lake with a ladder at the end. All of us use the ladder to get out of the water but some even use it to get in. These people, kids and adults alike, slowly climb down to dip a foot in, testing the temperature and kicking away any grass or sticks or muck that may be in the way.
I believe in jumping.
Taking all these precautions when I know it’s safe to launch myself off the end of that dock is a waste of time. I let others go first, admiring their abandon and freedom as they soar through the air. I delight in the glorious splash that causes surrounding swimmers to cower. I watch with anticipation to see if they’ll resurface – they all do. And finally, I jump. This surprises my husband and I love that.
Jumping doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m usually an analyzer, not wanting to be stuck with the wrong choice. I always order the same thing off the menu because I know I like it. I’ve vacationed at the same beach for more than thirty years because I know I’ll have a good time. And I’ve taught the same writing classes for fifteen years because I know exactly what to do. But after my first jumping experience I found myself questioning all of this. What if there’s something better on the menu? What about all those places I’ve never been? And what about those other jobs that could lead to bigger and better things? Now when I’m faced with the chance to try something new I remind myself “hey, I’m a jumper.”
I’ve discovered many new things this way. I’ve learned I like mayonnaise but will pass on guacamole. I found out I love mountain boarding and rock climbing but will probably not jump into a mud pit again. I’ve realized the Rocky Mountains restore my soul just as fully as the Atlantic Ocean has for years. And I’ve been reminded through the actual act of writing that putting pen to paper is not as easy as it seems.
I believe these experiences, both good and bad, have made my life better, but I haven’t gone crazy. I’m not going to eat bugs or jump out of a perfectly good airplane or try to climb Mt. Everest. But now, when given the choice to play it safe or take the risk, I believe I’ll jump. Sometimes I’m shocked by the cold and I encounter a little muck, but I’m no worse for the wear. I spend less time being anxious and more time enjoying the cool waters.