“How are you feeling Greta, are you scared?” I grin widely and shake my head no. “What’s your social security number? Just kidding, I better see that smile when we get to the bottom.” My skydiving instructor laughed lightly at his own joke, I felt a tickle in my chest and laughed as well as the small biplane banked slightly. It was almost time to jump; I was ready. I glanced across the plane where my brother sat, he too had a wide grin on his face. I gave him a thumbs up as I was strapped onto my instructor for my first tandem skydive, here we go.
As I leaned out over the edge, I had no instinct to hold on any longer, no desire to pull myself back into the safety of the plane, I quite simply just leaned forward and let go. As we were free falling my eyes raced to see as far as I could see, to witness as much of this Earth that I could fit into view as I fell back down to it. I wanted to absorb every detail, to etch it into memory. The wind pulled at my cheeks, broadening my smile even further. With an abrupt tug, we were safely floating by parachute, enjoying the gorgeous day, reveling in the quietness that was so contrast with the roaring wind from a moment before. I let out a giggle, overflowing with glee, that was simply too much fun.
I was 22 the first time I jumped out of a perfectly good plane. It was probably the riskiest thing I had ever done at that point in my life. Taking that leap of faith would come to be somewhat of a trend in other areas of my life, moments when I would realize the opportunity at hand, ultimately trusting that I was meant to land on my feet. In every instance it has been worth the flutter of the heart as I leapt into the unknown.
Risk is a funny thing, it both inspires innovation and spurs imagination, while also confronting vulnerability and discomfort. Risk pushes us to perform beyond the best of our ability, it takes us out of our comfort zones where real growth is tangible. That risk I took jumping out of the plane had very real consequences, positive and negative consequences that ran parallel and a mix of luck, fate and preparation helped determine my experience of these consequences.
Over the years I’ve tried to make a habit of embracing risk with the same zest that I do when I jump out of planes; to maintain that thirst for experience, that desire to soak in every ounce of living from the moment I have left the ledge, stepped away from the safety zone, let go of the security and comforts of that which I am used to and acquainted with.
At this very moment, the sound of seagulls fills my ears. The sun is warm, gently kissing my face as it slowly wakes up the rest of Valparaiso. I sit from a balcony, overlooking the colorful city, homes of every shade of pastel you can imagine, ships sitting out in the harbor, the Pacific resting calmly to my left as I look out over the rolling hills. It is quiet, the sounds of morning dominated by birds, with faint ship engines motoring off in the distance. I have been exploring, and this place has filled me with imagination and wonder. The cobblestone streets, the homes painted so many various hues of color delight at every turn. Risk brought me to this little city by the sea built up into the the hills, whose charm is intoxicating alongside its grit. A leap of faith brought me to this very moment that is filling me with so much joy and wonder.
I believe that each and every one of us feels a tug to do something every once in a while that others may consider crazy. Every single one of us has ideas that seem perhaps too risky, that we may be too easily talked out of. Yet, there is greatness in taking bold action, there is so much growth awaiting us in the discomfort of the unknown. To defy the fears of others, and perhaps the fears of yourself, by listening to the desires within and taking that leap of faith- this is truly living. I recently walked away from a lot of very obvious opportunity for perhaps the less obvious ones. Making that bold move, to write a chapter where I would be drawing on every ounce of strength I could muster, where I would again be searching every landscape to etch in memory the beauty it beheld, that has pushed me beyond what I believed capable, this is my latest leap of faith, and the journey has just begun.
A week ago I was rock climbing gorgeous granite deep in the Andes, discovering waterfalls and meeting the sunrise as it spilled through deep valleys. Two days ago I was galloping horses up a mountain outside of the gorgeous organic vineyard where we’ve been learning about biodynamic viticulture. Today I am walking the streets of Valparaiso, ready to further discover this place, ready to soak in as much as I can with eyes of wonder. Tomorrow, well, who knows where tomorrow will lead, but I will be sure to take a moment to acknowledge with gratitude the decision to take this leap, to embrace this risk, to lean forward and just let go. Today, I let out a giggle of glee, this is simply too much fun.
So, what is that thing that makes your heart skip a beat? What is that leap of faith you have only imagined taking, but haven’t given it serious thought, yet? Think about it, imagine it taking shape, and believe that you really are strong enough to lean forward and just let go.