My parents freaked...
Dad: What are you going to do when you get there?
Me: I'll stay with my friend Tarls until I get on my feet.
Mum: How are you going to support yourself?
Me: I'll get a job.
Dad: Why don't you wait till you find a job first and then leave?
Me: I've already booked my ticket - I'm going. Don't worry - I'll find a job and I'll be okay.
And within 2 weeks, I jumped.
The following year I received an invitation to my (then) boyfriend's friend's wife's cousin's wedding... in Jamaica (as you do). Flights to Montego Bay ex London were cheap so how could I refuse?
Our cultural wedding experience was followed by a 2-week adventure that circumnavigated the island. We took advice from locals and ended up at Rick's Cafe in Negril, which is now famous for its high cliff-top jumping platforms that challenge thrill seekers to plunge into the turquoise Caribbean Sea below.
Back then, we were the only non-locals within cooee of this site - and I, the only female. Testosterone filled the air with dares and backward triple somersault jumps. I watched in anxious awe.
My companion urged me to jump assuring me that I'd love it. Instead of starting at the lower jump points - I went straight to the top of the highest platform (35ft /10.7m) .
I looked down at what seemed to be 5kms (3.1mi) below and retreated. My companion continued to jump and climb, jump and climb, jump and climb - he was like a lab rat on speed. With each plunge he assured me that I could do it, and I'd love it.
This immediately took me back to a time when I was a child at my Aunt's beach house. All my cousins would jump from a sandy cliff height of about 1.5m (5ft) onto the soft sand below. Many times I stood at the top with the intention to jump, but I just couldn't do it. Ever.
So here I am (I could hear myself thinking), I have an opportunity to have a breakthrough. Make up for all the little jumps I missed out on as a child. Do it Grace, do it.
My companion jumped in once more and from the water below called up to me, "Come on Grace - you'll loooooove it! Just jump like a tin soldier - keep your feet straight like a pin".
Before I knew it, I had launched myself from the platform.
Utterly terrified I heard a blood-curdling scream echoing all around me. It was mine. I felt myself accelerate through the fall to a point where I hit warp speed - the fastest ever free fall.
In my terror, I had become completely paralysed. I could not straighten my legs and I hit the water with the thud of my butt. It was like landing on a sandpit - from 5kms high.
What followed was years of pain and spinal complications arising from the inability to sit with good posture - what's worse was that my favourite hideout in the guise of a movie cinema, was now a torture chamber. Not a fitting reward for my bravery, I thought.
As time went on and the pain persisted, I began to view my jump as much less courageous and more likely stupid. Why do we do that with 20/20 hindsight? If I'd have had a successful breakthrough and conquered my fear of jumping - then I'd have been a hero. Instead, I deemed myself a loser.
Since then, I have become increasingly afraid to jump - both literally and metaphorically. My fear of perpetuating a 'loser outcome' has kept me safe, but it has also eroded my youthful spirit of optimism and possibility - the same spirit that had me buy that one-way ticket to London in the first instance.
Life continually tempts us with opportunities, presents us with challenges and dares us to take risks. If we are not jumping, are we passively paralysing ourselves and asphyxiating our spirit?
Right now I am on the precipice. I have so many projects that I have yearned to manifest, but my fear of jumping has kept them safely locked away in the pipeline, on the back burner and when I have money, energy and time.
With only two days of 2013 left, perhaps now is the time to prepare my chute and get ready to jump in 2014. Who's with me?
Until our next cuppa, think about where in life you are afraid to jump - and start packing your chute too.
- Grace xo
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