Why I jumped off a cliff

Standing on the edge of the cliff, I knew I was going to jump. I was at a place in my life where I had had enough of the life I was living. As I share my story with you I do not mean to make light of the plight of jumpers. We all jump for different reasons. We all have different outcomes.

At the precise moment I jumped off that 130 foot jagged edged cliff, I thought I had prepared myself for what was to come. But I hadn’t. In hindsight, I hadn’t prepared at all. At just 18 years old, I thought I had the world by its tail and I could do no wrong. Call it naivety or hubris, or just being a dumb kid. To this day, it is one of the biggest risks I have ever taken in my life.

Like all teenage kids, I had my ups and downs. I struggled with my weight in grade school and carried the battle scars of self-esteem wars everywhere I went. They were hidden, not like real scars. But those mental scars cut the deepest because they go all the way inside your head. One of the things that compelled me to jump is that I felt it would strengthen my self-confidence and self-esteem.

The irony of the moment was that I was actually in a really good place at the time of my jump. I knew my parents loved me and I had two fun loving brothers.  My very best friends in the world were with me when I needed them. I was in the home stretch of my senior year of high school and had plans to attend UW-Madison that same year.

Looking down into the sea below I felt the ocean breeze in my face. My hair gently tickling my brow as I gauged the distance of the water below. A school of manatees were making their way through the waves and rocks. They looked so small so far below me.  It was my choice to jump and not theirs so I patiently waited for them to pass through before plunging. One last consideration of others before I took my life in my hands and leaped.

My hands were sweating and my knees were week, so it was clear my body knew my mind was serious.  Resolving all my mental fortitude, I told myself on the count of 4, I was jumping.

One…

Two…

Three…

Four!

I gently squatted about halfway down to my heals and with all of my might I leaped as far away as I could. Hands out front, live a diver. Feet locked together. If I was going to die I wanted to do so with grace and form.

The wind rushed passed me faster and faster. My eyes fogged slightly as I squinted through the wind. The Pacific Ocean was racing to great me at the speed of gravity.

They say the moment before you die your whole life passes before your eyes. My moment of impact was racing towards me, face first, at full speed.

And then the unthinkable happened…

 

Before making the jump, I had been on vacation with my high school friends for a senior trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was supposed to be two weeks of fun and partying in celebration of our high school careers. For some reason, we had decided to take a day trip up the coast to go exploring.

As we made our way up the coast in a rickety old van one of my friends spotted a cheap palapa on the side of the road offering bungee jumping into the ocean.  We of course stopped out of curiosity to check it all out. At the time, bungee jumping was still a novelty in the US and definitely an unregulated business in Mexico.

The proprietor of this little Mexican bungee jumping stand was your typical expat American who had washed up on drugs and alcohol while on vacation and never left town. Like many who are down and out, yet still opportunistic, plans are hatched and new businesses pop up all the time on Mexican beaches.  Whether it’s a couple guys with a boat and a parachute offering parasailing, or the countless rentals of jet skis or horses, this entrepreneur had built a ramshackle cantilevered palapa platform that somehow held up as it was extended out over a cliff on the Pacific Ocean and the jagged rocks below.

Peer pressure is a real thing

I always thought I was a strong-willed person, but with 7 high school friends egging me on, I somehow let my guard down and did the inconceivable. I decided if my friends would jump, I would too.  We’ve all heard the saying that parents sometimes use to steer their kids away from doing what their friends do, “If your friends all jumped off a bridge, does that mean you’d jump off the bridge too?!”

I’m sure my sarcastic self at the time would have justified such a jump by saying, “You said bridges dad, not cliffs.”

Gearing up

Walking up the planked pathway to the palapa platform, the operator had a few questions for me.

Do you want to swan dive or jump with a harness on?

Swan dive.

Do you want to go into the ocean or stop above?

I’d like to go about waist deep. Can you manage that? [bearing in mind this is a 130-foot drop – the equivalent of a thirteen story building!]

The operator eyed me up and down for a moment… Hmm, you are a bit bigger than the rest. Hand me that bungee back and take these two instead. It should be about right.  I can’t promise you will go in waist deep, but it should be close.

“Close,” I think to myself, “Great, I am a bit bigger than the rest so my jump will be close. Wonderful.”

My Final Thoughts Before I Jumped

I began this story telling you I had had enough of the life I had lived.  I want to be a bit more specific on that.  I was blessed to have a loving family and wonderful friends. There were plenty of things going right for me in life and many things I was looking forward to.  But sometimes in life even when everything seems to be going right on the outside, we have our own internal battles and struggles.  My childhood was filled with battles over my self-esteem. Those wins and losses can make their mark and take their toll on anyone. You may have had your own personal battles or you may be going through those battles now.  If you are someone who really goes for it in life, you will find yourself in struggles you can’t imagine.  But that’s what happens when you leave your comfort zone.

In life, the most rewarding gifts and experiences are found outside our comfort zones. The more time we spend outside of our comfort zone, the bigger our comfort zone gets.  Things that seemed impossible or insurmountable become routine and expected. And so we push ourselves further.

As I stood on that platform many years ago, I resolved to leave my fears behind.  I determined in that moment, “If I can do this, even though I am scared to death of doing it, I can do anything I decide to do in life.” This powerful moment in my life has become a lifelong anchor for my mind.  Every single time I want to hesitate because I am scared or uncertain in a moment; every time I think I should hold back and stay in my comfort zone; I think of myself standing on that platform 130 feet over the biggest ocean in the world, and I remember the resolve it took to say, “Jump.  You can do it.”

The moment before I jumped I looked at my friends and I smiled.  I was so proud of each of them. Every single one of them held the same resolve I did. We each made a promise that if everyone else jumped we would too.  23 years later I am blessed to still have these friends and I have watched each of them jump over and over throughout their lives. Every time I see those friends set a new milestone in life, accomplish a big life goal, or celebrate a big win for something they care about, I smile and I think about that special day. I can’t help but think they are jumpers too.

I really did have the line about, “Would you jump off a bridge just because all of your friends jumped?” going through my head that day. Despite my sometimes rebellious nature at times, I really did respect my parents deeply and I knew I would have to answer for my actions.

As I leaned towards the edge of the platform, I thought, “What would my parents think about me jumping off this platform just because my friends did?” As I looked past my friends I looked right at my dad.  He had the biggest smile ever on his face, holding the video camera up to his eye, he gave me the thumbs up. In that moment, I knew exactly how he felt about it. It’s one of my favorite memories of my dad.

The Jump

Looking down into the sea below I felt the ocean breeze in my face. My hair gently tickling my brow as I gauged the distance of the water below…

In that moment, I resolved to never be afraid of taking action in life. I resolved to leave my struggles and fears behind and to jump towards my future.  I resolved to be the best me I could be. No matter how many times I would face obstacles in life, from this day forward I would resolve to be a jumper.

One…

Two…

Three…

Four!

I gently squatted about halfway down to my heals and with all of my might I leaped as far away as I could. Hands out front, like a diver. Feet locked together.
The wind rushed passed me faster and faster. My eyes fogged slightly as I squinted through the wind. The Pacific Ocean was racing to great me at the speed of gravity.

They say the moment before you die your whole life passes before your eyes. My moment of impact was racing towards me, face first, at full speed.

But my life wasn’t flashing before me.  I felt an incredible calm wash over me.  My faith was rewarded as the bungee straps gently decelerated my freefall.

And then the unthinkable happened…

That crazy bungee jump operator who had eye balled me up to determine the bungee straps I should use, nailed it just right.  After 130 feet of free fall, I dunked my body waist deep into the Pacific. I’m not even sure my suit got wet.

As I exploded back up towards the platform, an incredible adrenaline wave crashed upon me like a red flag undertow. It felt like a million needles were poking my entire body at once.  The euphoria I experienced in that moment is something I have never forgotten.

The experience armed me for the rest of my life.  Whenever I have faced a challenge I wasn’t sure I could tackle I think of that moment.  I think of the resolve.  I think of taking action in the moment.

No matter who you are or what you do; no matter what you believe or who you care about; resolve yourself to take action in life.  Resolve to get out of your comfort zone. Resolve to be your best you.

Be a Jumper.

 

 

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