When I finally open my eyes again, I am almost surprised to find the world hasn’t changed in the last second. The rolling hills and cliffs of the French Riviera still stand stoically before me, as if meticulously painted into the blue of the sky. The sun shines brightly, leaving tiny droplets of perspiration along my tanned skin.

Paul Wong
Rena Greifinger – I Give You My Word(s)

With great effort, I keep my focus straight ahead, because looking down will initiate the trembling in my legs again. I look anyway. The crystal water, which had been so inviting, so soothing all day, suddenly looks forbidding.

The various shades of aqua and midnight dance before me in the light breeze, teasing my mind – beckoning me and waving me off at the same time. I tell myself repeatedly that I am going to jump; I just need one more second. For the umpteenth time, I count to three and hold my breath, but my feet seem to remain glued to the pointed rock beneath me. I need to just do it already!

Opposing arguments whirl through my head as I debate the consequences of embarking on or resisting this endeavor. I know that the more I stand here, contemplating an entrance into the 40-foot void before me, the less likely I will be to actually follow through.

I know that if I chicken out, I will never let myself live it down. Yet, I am also aware that holding back would not be so great a disappointment.

What do I need to jump off this cliff for anyway? Who do I have to prove myself to? Still, I know that I have a lot to prove and that it is I who needs the convincing. I sit another moment, torn between thoughts of justification for taking the easy way out and chastisement for being a coward.

My mind races with fear, excitement, and anticipation of the rush of flying through the air – if I can just push off this ledge.

There are so many situations in our lives, so many times in which we are standing atop a glorious cliff, debating between taking a step back and enjoying the view from above, and stepping forward into the unknown.

So often we are asked to make important choices, to survey our options, and to weigh the benefits of each. And so often we want to take that step; dared to jump by the spark of adventure that lurks within us all – a spark just waiting to ignite.

Yet, fear holds us back from so much. Fear of the unknown, of the fall, of the impact. It is only natural that we embrace comfort and security in life. It is innate that we fear harm and humiliation; pain both physical and emotional.

So many of us keep our true feelings hidden when faced with confrontation. If fulfilling our dreams means letting go of what we know and have, we may deny ourselves those dreams out of pure trepidation.

Even love, the most incredible entity in this world, can also be the most terrifying. We have all feared love; feared letting people into our hearts and in turn, giving our hearts to others.

Yet, we too possess a burning desire to let go, say what’s on our minds, and give ourselves up to love. We want to stand up on those great boulders, our feet strapped into safety and our eyes peering down into the depths of that desire, and we want so badly to jump.

And then there is this moment. A split second, really, where all the fog that has clogged my mind seems to lift. I don’t know exactly what it is – my boyfriend’s whispers of encouragement in my ear, the French boys snickering behind my back or that tiny flame within me that has finally gone ablaze.

But I don’t count to three, I don’t take another deep breath and I don’t even know what I am doing until there is nothing beneath my feet and the enchanted scene that had just stood still before me is rapidly flying upward. I jumped! I landed! I kindled my flame!

And so again, I have learned something about life. I am not here to say that we should go jumping off every cliff or that every risk is worth taking. I am not saying that I have conquered all my fears or that I would even jump again. But, life has so much to offer; so much that its opportunities are beyond what we know and can see.

I learned an important lesson up there on that glorious cliff. I learned that facing the jump is usually the hardest part. That it takes so much effort to stand on that edge, stare down at the un-chartered waters beneath, and somehow decide that the risk is worth taking. For, once airborne, it all looks and feels much simpler.

I just stepped off and let gravity take its course. I allowed life to flow as it should, asking myself all the while why I had caused such a scene up there in the first place.

So, when given a chance, we should not quickly jump with enthusiasm, nor should we immediately turn away in fear. We should just sit upon that fear a moment, count to three and take a deep breath. We should challenge our fears and step out of that shell of comfort, yet only after looking around and grasping the magnitude of what we are about to dive into.

Perhaps the battle is just reaching that edge and being able to see what’s on the other side. Whatever it is, the battle can indeed be won. I challenge you all to jump the next time you aren’t sure. I cannot guarantee that the landing will be worth the take off, but I can assure you that the fall will be easier than you expected.

– Insight? Email Rena at rgreifin@umich.edu

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