Taking the Leap
I stood on the platform, staring down at the clear water, body rigid. My feet were firmly planted on the wooden slats as if roots had sprung up between the planks and wrapped themselves around my ankles.
“Come on, you can do this,” my partner gently coaxed. He was so patient it was almost infuriating. I didn’t deserve patience. I had been up there for at least twenty minutes vacillating—stepping aside to allow other jumpers to go ahead of me, convincing myself their courage would give me strength, and then freezing on the edge of the platform all over again.
There was no reason for me to still be up there. When we arrived at the cenote, I had it in my head that I was going to jump. I envisioned myself running and leaping from the edge of the platform the way Buffy did at the end of season five in order to save the world. Yes, this vivid imagination is why I write fantasy books. And no, I did not think my jumping into the cenote would save the world, but I thought—for me at least, it would be epic, so I was determined.
But at that point, it seemed a fruitless notion. Buffy the Vampire Slayer I was not. Each time I looked down, I shied away, despite cheers of encouragement from the swimmers below. It was mortifying. My partner should have been yelling at me in the same manner in which I was internally yelling at myself.
In one quick motion, my head shook, indicating a firm no. He waited, stroking my back as my mind continued spinning a complex web of negative thoughts, each one building on the next.
It should have been easy. I was on vacation in beautiful Tulum, Mexico staring down at a gorgeous cenote, its cool water offering a reprieve from the intensity of the midday sun.
I had already watched at least ten other people jump. Each one plunged safely into the water and floated back up with ease—not surprising considering we were all wearing life jackets, another fact that made my fear even more inane. No one had slipped and hit the deck. Even those who insisted on running and cannonballing into the water hadn’t face-planted. There were no rocks to crash into below. The platform was strategically built twelve feet above the water in a spot where tourists would have to work extremely hard to screw up the jump. And yet still, I couldn’t move.
They can’t account for mental cases like me. The ones who stand there paralyzed, living through unreal scenarios in their mind instead of lightheartedly jumping into the cenote. But I was so focused on the unknown that I deprived myself of the ability to enjoy the present moment.
My mind kept repeating the same question—what would happen between the time my feet were no longer on the platform and before I hit the water? I would be completely out of control, at the mercy of gravity—a thought that wasn’t just unappealing, it was paralyzing.
And yet, there are many areas of my life where I’ve operated in that same manner for too long—wanting to move forward but terrified of not knowing what would happen if I did. Refusing to let go of control, I never took a step forward. I allowed fear to prevent me from even trying.
And in not trying, I created another unknown—what would have happened if I had had the courage to try? To me, that’s a question that has become scarier than all the other “what ifs.”
At this point, I wish I could tell you that I summoned the courage to leap from the platform into the cenote but that isn’t the case. Finally, when we only had a few minutes left before our tour guide ushered us out, my partner walked me down to the dock—my own version of the walk of shame. I was about to climb down the ladder into the water when he stopped me.
“No. You’re not getting off that easy.” He placed his hands on my shoulders and positioned me at the edge of the dock. “You’re going to jump from here. Otherwise, if you don’t jump at all, fear will have won.”
I snorted. As far as I was concerned, fear had already won. I didn’t even want to jump from the dock at that point, I just wanted to get in the water. Glancing between his hazel eyes and the blue-green waters below me, I hesitated, panicked questions again flooding my mind. Would I hit the dock on my way down? How deep would my body plunge? Would I be able to keep my nose plugged? If not, would water flood up my nostrils?
“All you have to do is step off the side. Don’t think about it, just do it.” He coaxed, removing his hands from my shoulders. I had begged him several times that day to just push me into the water but he refused, convinced it was up to me to push myself.
I closed my eyes—heart pounding, I took a deep breath, and squeezed my nostrils tightly shut. As I stepped off the dock, my body was weightless, completely out of my control—only I had no time to think. No time for all the self-destructive chatter that had rendered me incapable of jumping in the first place.
Gravity quickly plunged me beneath the surface of the water—deeper than I had anticipated. It was as invigorating as it was terrifying. As I kicked my legs and waved my arms, making my way to the surface, both relief and excitement flooded through me.
I knew what I was doing. I was a good swimmer. My confidence reemerged as I broke the surface. There was no scary unknown now. There was me swimming in heavenly—albeit freezing cold water. No longer distracted by my own mindless chatter, I finally noticed the magnificent cavern surrounding me, with its many stalactites and cascading green vines. I floated with ease, absorbing the cenote’s beauty.
Two minutes later, the tour guide announced it was time to leave.
As I write this, I still shake my head at how silly I was being. By focusing on everything that could go wrong, I had deprived myself of the opportunity to enjoy the cenote.
All of that beauty was waiting for me on the other side of my fear.
I just needed to take the leap.