Friday, April 29, 2011

High Diving

My childhood summer memories are a blur of waters, raisin fingertips, and brown skin. I lived to swim, to float, to be surrounded by the cool blue and inhale the chlorine.

I was always very comfortable hanging out in the middle depths, and would have stayed there indefinitely if my curiosity hadn't been raised by the swarm of kids by the diving boards. The pool in my grandparents' town had a high dive, a tease, a challenge that stared at me from the deep end. One day I decided to attempt it. I got in line and waited nervously as kids climbed the ladder and jumped the distance, screaming with either terror or thrill. My turn came, and I bravely climbed up. The climb wasn't difficult, and I was fully prepared to walk to the end and jump, until I actually walked to the end, looked down, and froze.

Here is one of my most embarrassing moments. I stood up there for what seemed like hours, just staring at the space between me and the water. After a while, a lifeguard climbed up to me and gently encouraged me to just jump.

"All you have to do is take that leap."

He was right. All I had to do was jump. It would be over in a moment, I would have accomplished the high dive, it would be fine. But the voice of doubt in my head wondered, What if? What if I hit my head on the platform? What if I belly-flopped? What if the fall wasn't exciting, but terrifying? What if the water miraculously disappeared in the 3 seconds it took me to fall and I landed on the concrete bottom of the pool and died splat?

I wish I could say that I mustered my strength and took the chance, jumped and all was well. I can't. I totally chickened out. With the entire population of the pool watching, I climbed back down the ladder and cried all the way to the locker room, humiliated.

I've been thinking about that high dive lately, and how that stupid trip to the pool has become the great metaphor in my life. Standing on platform, poised to jump, feeling the fear of the unknown and not being willing to chance it. Life's fucking scary sometimes. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. Change is a risk. Then again, stasis is just as bad. A shoe stuck in mud, teeth cemented by taffy. I'm not that girl anymore. I am the girl who jumps despite the fear and screams the whole way down. And I am the girl who surfaces.


  1. When I was facing a huge decision a few years ago, my uncle told me, "sitting on a fence will give you a sore crotch."

    Not pretty, but we're Iowa farm stock, what can you do? Still, it's smart. You aren't that little girl anymore. You'll take the step that needs taking, even not knowing exactly what you'll find under your foot.

  2. Trisha, you're so right.

    The hardest part is taking my own advice. I find that I'm standing on the high dive three, four times a day. And it's never any less terrifying, but I'm making myself jump at every opportunity. Vulnerability sucks, but at least I'm living.