Leap of Faith
Standing on a tiny platform high in the air, I looked around, taking in the birds eye view. I peeked at the ground below, hesitated a little bit. Gathering my courage, I took a step off the Leap of Faith. Plummeting to the ground, I shrieked in exhilaration and terror, laughed with relief as the rope caught me and my feet touched solid ground.
I was twelve or thirteen and it was the first time I’d done the ropes course at summer camp. The Leap of Faith was the final challenge and it truly was a leap of faith. The only thing standing between you and the need for an ambulance was the rope and harness attached to you, and the belayer on the ground, controlling your fall. Depending on the belayer, you could step off and be gently lowered to the ground, or you could go on an exhilarating free fall, where, until the moment they stopped you, just feet from the ground, you thought it was entirely possible you would need that ambulance after all. Being in middle school, my thoughts were directed more towards proving to myself I could do it and less to the potential need for an ambulance.
Many summers later, I tackled the ropes course again, this time as a staff member in my early twenties. I had spent the summers in between those years happily dividing my time between the lake and arts and crafts, but was talked into trying the ropes course again.
(Lifeguarding at the lake, where I was much more likely to be found than at the ropes course)
I got up there, remembered the thrill of being high in the air, among the trees, but also was infinitely more aware of all the things that could go wrong than I had been the previous times I’d been up there. This time, I thought less about proving something to myself and more about that ambulance. Double checking my harness and caribiner, trying not to think about how far I was from the ground, I made my way through the course and found myself at the Leap of Faith.
The person on the ground was one of the most experienced belayers at camp. I’d watched him guide the rope as others made the jump. I knew he was trustworthy and capable.
Despite that, I was terrified.
The thought of stepping off of the platform, being completely out of control of what happened next was paralyzing. I’d done this before, but that didn’t matter in the movement. I wiped away tears as I tried to gear up for the jump.
“You can do it, Laura! You’ve got this!” I heard from the ground below. A small crowd gathered below, older campers and staff members, shouting their encouragement.
I’m not sure how many minutes I stayed up there, frozen, but I knew I couldn’t stay up there all day. Finally, I took the step, and screamed as a familiar but long forgotten rush of exhilaration and terror swept through me, and then relief, as I slowed to a stop, well clear of the ground, before being lowered slowly to solid ground.
A leap of faith can be like that: paralyzing right before you make the choice to take it and then exhilarating once you’ve let go. Carefully laid plans and being in control sound nice in theory, but sometimes you need the wild abandon of taking a leap of faith, feeling the wind rush past you as you fall through the air.