I Believe in Jumping into Fire

Ethan - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Entered on October 13, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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The only way to do it is to ignore your better judgment, and to take a running leap into the fire. In doing so, you have to have faith that the fire will go the second you jump into it. And as I know from experience, it always does.

When I was in the seventh grade, I became of the age in which I had to learn to face the fire. For two years I took lessons at the YMCA. My family spent effort, money, and time to teach me how to swim in the fire. As time progressed, I gradually became less afraid, but I still wasn’t ready to take the jump. Eventually I transferred over to another facility, where I worked one-on-one with an instructor. She taught me a little bit more about the fire. I learned that it wasn’t fire to everyone, that it was only fire if I made it fire.

However, I still had a problem making my inner self believe that there was nothing to fear. I couldn’t muster the strength to force myself into something I feared so much. I spent over a year of intense lessons, stressing the limits of my abilities both physically and mentally. I strained my mind to accept the fact that there was no true fire. But even as I learned to swim better and better, I still had an irrational yet deadly fear that I could not rid myself of.

It came apparent that all the work and mental preparation could not cure me of my irrational fear. I simply had to take the jump; I no longer had the choice to say ‘no.’

I go out of the locker room, and my swim instructor is waiting for me. “Don’t you want to just get this over with?” She says. “We’d be finished if you could just take the jump into the deep end of the pool. You know as well as I do that nothing is going to happen. It’s just water you can jump in, you’ll be fine. The fear, ‘the fire’, its all in your head, bud.”

“It’s time,” my dad says.

“What’s that Dad? Okay we will,” she says as she nods to another swim instructor who walks over briskly to the edge of the pool where we are standing.

“We are going to jump now, together. Don’t try to get away; you have to do this.”

They each grab one of my arms and at first I struggle stubbornly. Then I relax, because I know that I have no control over the situation. I surrender to them, surrender to the flames.

She begins counting, “one… two… three.”

I close my eyes and the three of us jump into the fire, I most ungracefully. But as I jump, the flames don’t consume me, they don’t even hurt me. All I can feel is the wetness of the water. I swim up to the surface and grab the side of the pool. I breathe deeply and feel stronger, a little silly, but mostly stronger. It’s a strength that comes from being relieved of something you have carried for a very long time. The fire is gone, and there’s nothing else to fear. What I had believed to be fire for so long I now know to be only water. After rising up out of the water and standing on the pool that was filled just moments ago with fire, I know that I am a new person, I am changed forever. The old fire that has only existed inside me is dead. Its ashes are washed away by a new understanding and awareness of myself.

It’s been five years, since I faced the fire. Since then, I’ve been able to extinguish many other fires that have threatened me. I’ve overcome my fear of heights, my fear of speaking in from of other people, and driving a car. Sometimes a fire will still spark up in me, but I refuse to kindle it with my own weaknesses. I can’t let it grow and spread until I have made it something I cannot stop. So instead I jump on it, and smother in the dust until there is nothing left.