You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you’re on a roller coaster heading down the hill really fast? Or even better, jumping off a cliff into water?
Ok, I’ll be honest, I don’t really know that feeling myself first hand. I mean, yes I’ve been on a roller coaster at some point years ago. I didn’t really like it. I’m not actually a fan of heights. I’ve definitely never been sky diving or bungee jumping and at this point I doubt it’s something I’ll ever feel the need to try. But I’ve read enough to know what I’m talking about – that sense of exhilaration and terror in equal measures. The feeling of complete free fall where your stomach feels like it’s trying to claw its way out up your throat thanks to gravity. The blood rushing in your ears.
I hear that it can become addictive, and that’s where we get the expression “adrenaline junkie”. I sort of get it. I mean, I get a certain thrill from cycling fast down hill, and if I were doing it somewhere where I didn’t have to worry about traffic I would definitely push the envelope rather than play it safe. But I don’t otherwise feel the need to seek that level of thrill. I am not, by nature, a risk taker. I am, in fact, fairly risk-averse in many ways. Financially, personally, professionally. I don’t like confrontation. I don’t like surprises. I don’t like winging it. So I don’t generally put myself into situations of free fall. Hell, the last time I recall having a massive adrenaline surge was a couple of months ago when a seagull tried to land on the handlebars of my bike while I was in motion. I actually had to swipe the damn bird away while simultaneously coming to a stop at red light. If you’re wondering what sort of shock to the system looks like on a heart rate monitor, this is it:
Of course, life doesn’t always make it possible for you to play it safe. Big or small, all decisions in life are in essence a balance of risks. Moving homes, moving countries, getting into a relationship, getting out of a relationship, getting married, having children, buying a house, investing money, changing jobs… everything has a certain amount of risk. And unlike jumping off a cliff and spending only a few seconds in that limbo of thrill and terror before hitting the water, you might be in free fall for a while. Sometimes you have to make a decision and it can be a while before you find out where you’ve landed and if you’ve landed safely, and during that time you have to get on with your life – wake up, go to work, collect your kid, keep house… all the while turning the same thoughts over and over in your head. Was that the right decision? Should I have played it safe? Should I have taken the risk? When will I know the answer? What if I made a mistake? It’s like the longest sky dive or cliff jump where it just. doesn’t. end. I honestly don’t know how people can stand making risky decisions all the time.
But we can’t always play it safe. In an uncharacteristic move, I jumped off a cliff recently. I still don’t know where I’m going to land. I might not know for a while. So this is me, screaming and flailing on the way down, hoping that what’s waiting below me is deep water, laughter over the thrill, and some good memories.