When was the last time you did something that truly scares you? Mine was last year: I jumped off a plane over the scenic Great Ocean Road, just two hours from Melbourne, Australia.
I wish I could say that I am this daredevil who lives life untethered and gets off on the adrenaline. I am not, but every year, I made it a point to do at least one thing that terrifies me.
It started back in 2015. I was hanging out at Clarke Quay in Singapore, when I saw a long queue in front of a tall structure. Intrigued, I made my way to the crowd, just in time to see a metal ball, with three people sitting inside, being catapulted sky high. The ride was known as the reverse bungy, and it immediately excited me.
My friend and I joined the queue, but as the line snaked forward, I grew quieter, my face white as a sheet. My friend asked if I was OK, if I wanted to quit. The offer was tempting, but I shook my head in silence.
It was finally our turn and, long story short… I thoroughly enjoyed the ride! It taught me that I can “do something scared”, and the pay-off is most of the time worth it. I made a resolution to always remind myself of this.
Fast forward to 2019, I used Maverick’s Personal Development Fund to book a skydive. In the weeks leading to the big jump, there would be nights when I lay awake in bed, sleep evading me as fear overtook my brain. I kept imagining how I would be feeling during the two-hour drive to the airstrip, then getting on the plane, before it hit me that I had never been on an aircraft with the door open mid-air… It filled me with crippling anxiety.
As anyone in the 21st century does, in the face of uncertainty, I turned to Google. I then stumbled upon a video of Will Smith on his skydiving experience. He went over the same anxiety I was experiencing, and then he said something that I held onto until the day came when I had to take the leap:
“Why were you scared in bed the nights before? What do you need that fear for?
Everything up to the stepping out of the plane, there’s actually no reason to be scared.
And then at that moment when you should be terrified, it’s the most blissful experience of your life.
You realized that the point of maximum danger is the point of minimum fear. The best things in life are on the other side of fear.”
As I arrived in Melbourne, I had two days to take in the city. I took it easy, strolling through the parks, reading by the river, and ceramic shopping. Being a Potterhead, I also could not miss seeing the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play at the iconic Princess Theatre.
I recharged my “battery” as best as I could to prepare myself for the moment of truth: Would I make it outside the airplane? Or would I chicken out?
The awaited morning came early. I woke with a mix of fear and, mostly, excitement. I couldn’t wait to meet my fellow skydivers to share in this energy and reinforce each other’s confidence.
Just my luck, though, the shuttle bus picked me up and I was the only solo traveler to do the dive. The rest were couples or in groups, all hyping each other up in their own little worlds. I could let this fact deflate my excitement. Instead, I chose to see myself as the bravest of them all and sleep through the ride – more juice for my battery!
Arriving at the basecamp, we put on our gears and listened to the safety briefing, then we waited… and waited some more. As with most big things in life – make-or-break pitches, keynote talks in front of hundreds, confessing love – the wait was the most excruciating part.
In cases when the wait had been long enough, I sometimes found myself, after the first bout of excitement of taking up something new, scary, and exciting, to be hesitating and ending up searching for a way out.
The key, I had since then figured out, is to accept that the fear will never go away as long as I want to keep growing and expanding my horizon. I will always find myself in uncomfortable, even terrifying, situations.
The good news? Yes, the fear can come in waves, but each wave will pass. The only way to feel better is to just push through and do it. Shift my focus from what can go wrong to what I need to do in the moment. And with each wave’s passing, I will bask in the pride over the fear I have just conquered. This is one of the most empowering feelings in the world.
An hour or two later, I was strapped to Angelo, my tandem skydive instructor, inside a tiny airplane. Soon, it made its way across the airstrip and soared into the sky. Just like that, I seemed to have left my fear on the ground. The view was unbelievable! We flew for about 20 minutes until we reached the perfect height of 12,000 ft, then the doors were opened. One by one, skydivers and their tandem instructors left the plane in pairs – I was third.
There was no time to panic or be afraid. Still strapped to Angelo, I scooted to the edge of the open doors. He counted to three, we leaned forward, and with my mouth open in awe, we were freefalling through the sky.
The pride and confidence I gained from taking this leap has stayed with me, even long after I landed back on earth. So, when will you take your leap?
Written by Marsha Imaniara, Manager – Consultancy