“My Once-in-a-Lifetime Life” is a series of occasional blogs written by Joy Zomer who spent several years in Europe as a Christian missionary. Now a single mom of three children, Joy is the director of a high school alternative education program. This post celebrates her journey from fear to courage.
Stepping off the platform, there was a second or two where it felt like I was floating on air. There was nothing but air below me, no supports to grip with my hands – just a reach into nothingness. Then with a jolt, the cable supports clicked in, I sat down into the harness, and I was sailing. My first zip-line ride had begun.
It’d been a long time since I had taken a risk like this. After two car accidents resulting in trauma, physical injuries, and a good number of “can’t change this” decisions, I appreciated the ability to plan my steps, deliberate on the next decision, and simply,know where my feet were going to land next. The idea of floating on air wasn’t particularly appealing as I thought of all the things that could go wrong: my weight could be too much for the supports; the harness could fail; the impact of the landing could hurt my back or my weak knee; I could get sick or need to use the restroom. Or the cable could break and I could plunge to my death. These images and more raced through my mind for many hours before I even suggested the activity to my 13 – year-old daughter. Was I going to be able to handle the psychological risk of injury? Was I brave enough anymore to give this a try? Could I physically handle the strain of doing it?
In the end, the decision really came down to a determination not to be defined by the past. If I couldn’t give zip-lining a try, my logic was that all those challenging moments in my past had taken over will and grit and made me fearful. We all know that healthy fear can be good, yes. But, in my experience, fear has a tendency to stop me from doing things that represent a risk. Life’s adventures have reminded me that there is a good deal I can’t plan for. When I can plan, I like to make sure it is something I actually want to do.
So, there I was. On the platform with a group of people. In a twist of bad luck, I was the last person down the line. I watched as each person took the step, most squealing or screaming, all, expressing some type of shock as they stepped off into air. I almost backed out. But, after my daughter zipped on with her own exclamation, I walked slowly up to the guide, Nick. He looked at me and said, “This is a tough one?”
I nodded and simply responded grim-faced, “I don’t like not knowing where I’m going.”
With a smile, he looked me in the eye and said, “You just need to lean back and trust the gear.”
My daughter was so thrilled with the experience that she actually joined up on two zip-lining tours; her second tour took her on the 2nd highest line in all of the U.S. at 475 feet off the ground. By the end of the day, she was euphoric about zip-lining in general, and continues to talk about it as a life highlight. I must say her reaction put the experience in perspective for me as well. It wasn’t just about the risks involved and the symbolic decisions to push away fear. I remember the experience now with some fondness simply as a chance to exist without my feet on the ground. Not knowing exactly how I would land offered a reminder of a life set free to sail. And, as with so many things in life, the key is to lean back and put all my trust in the gear.