Four weeks ago I took up pier jumping which, for those who haven’t seen it, means you go to a pier and jump off. Then you fly through the air till you hit the water. That’s it, really. There’s no skill involved in jumping, although there is in staying alive (knowing about water depth, boating traffic, and tide).
In terms of scaring myself, this presses all my buttons — I’m so scared of heights, I wobble on a kitchen chair. At one point (see pic above) I climbed down from the top because I felt faint and didn’t want to die in front of the kids. I jumped from a place where I thought I’d survive, clutching my face so it wouldn’t be torn off. (Later my first online comment would be, ‘Ha! You’re holding your nose!’)
While I bobbed in the water afterwards, small children flew through the air from above. I had to curb the instinct to catch them and send them to shore wrapped in towels; they were loving it.
All types of jumping can be scary. A year ago I took a break from work to volunteer locally. It sounds sweet and easy but leaving my comfort zone (solo freelance writing) after two decades actually felt so daunting that when someone offered me the chance to work in their office, I said, ‘God, no!’
Cue one confusing interview moment.
He was lovely and I wanted to work there, I was just so anxious about being good enough that I forgot that we could have made a brilliant team. (We would.) He tried to reassure me, said all the right things — but by the time I’d summoned the courage to say yes, someone else had grabbed the role. If my confidence was down a hole, it just got deeper. Time to climb out…
Six months later I had an operation that scared me so much, I nearly jumped off the hospital gurney and ran down the A30 with my bad-hospital-nightie flapping in my wake. Instead I managed to muster just enough courage to allow them to drug me out of my skull and carve a 22-inch hole across my torso. After that, pier jumping seemed kind of manageable and my behaviour at interview seemed nothing short of ridiculous.
Since then, I’ve had more ops and I’m peppered with scars, but I’m not scared of the top step any more, or kind people offering good things.
I’ve realised that confidence and fear are both irrelevant. There’s only what we do and don’t do.
If there’s no immediate danger, if the water’s deep and there are no boats coming by, no swimmers beneath, and if the tide is slack, there’s no point in being scared. Or if I am, I should enjoy the fear — powered by my own legs, plummeting towards the sea, sucking in huge lungfuls of air and feeling the wind on my face.
I recommend it.
Things I’ve done to try and combat my fear of heights
none of which worked
but which were all fun.
(Microlight flying, balloon ride, climbing Tryfan, swinging from trees, pier jumping.)