38. Describe a time you took a leap of faith.
My commute in the morning is roughly forty-five minutes. Twenty of those are spent riding the El to get downtown. It is the perfect amount of time to listen to a Modern Love podcast from WBUR. On a recent train ride I listened to the episode entitled, “A Faithful Leap.” I won’t spoil the story, but it’s what you would imagine. A tale about making a life changing decision based on nothing more than a leap of faith. A bonus episode was then created of listeners own leap of faith stories, and I thought this is where I would share mine:
From the ground looking up it didn’t seem that scary, but as soon as I put my hands and feet to the ladder I could feel myself start to shake. With each rung my heart started to beat a little faster and the only thought I had was, “why am I doing this?” Before this moment I wouldn’t have described myself as someone with a fear of heights, but then again I had never willingly thrown myself from a tree either.
One of the perks of my summer internship was that I was being trained how to belay people, and how to facilitate challenge course activities on a high ropes course. I had been rock climbing before and at another campgrounds I had participated on a smaller ropes course, but nothing this extensive. And what I mean is that I had never stood on a wooden platform, 70 feet up, with a white buoy dangled a couple feet out in front of me. This was definitely a first.
The activity is called, leap of faith. Very appropriate since I was supposed to take a very real leap of faith off the wooden platform in order to smack the buoy. Down below me, safe on the ground, was my belay team. Made up of my fellow interns and co-workers at the campground. My life was very much in their hands, and I had to trust that as I took my leap they would be there to lower me to safety.
With every passing second on the platform I could feel myself lose my nerve, and even after our supervisor did a countdown my feet were still glued in place. “This is ridiculous,” I thought. “I didn’t climb all the way up here just to chicken out.” And since I cave to things like peer pressure, and the idea of being a chicken I couldn’t wait a moment longer…3-2-1….
I missed the buoy. By a lot.
I made the mistake of panicking and grabbed the rope I was harnessed to instead of reaching out in front of me. As my team lowered me to the ground my disappointment began to sink in. I had never been good at taking the big leaps. I always found myself plagued with doubt, and the constant second guessing always left me in a ball of nerves.
I’m really good at talking people in to things, and sometimes I even manage to use the skill of persuasion on myself. But naturally I tend to be more reserved, always waiting to see who will jump first. In more recent years I had pushed myself to take bigger leaps. The biggest so far had been deciding to transfer from the university in my home city out to Iowa. A leap of faith that I had never imagined taking, but one that I was very thankful for.
From the ground I watched as everyone took a turn taking their own leap, while still thinking of my own. I wasn’t the only one who had missed but I was envious of those who hit the mark. When asked if I wanted a second chance I timidly answered yes knowing full well that I would regret it if I said no. With the encouragement from my team I found myself back on the platform looking out at the white buoy in front of me.
It is not often that you get a second chance. Once you hesitate the moment is gone and everyone will have moved on leaving you without a team. After that summer in California I learned to say yes to opportunities that scared me. It doesn’t always work. I’m still trying to persuade myself to take bigger leaps, to reach for things even further away.
Which is why on that day, when given a second chance, I took a leap of faith. And this time I took it with my arms outstretched.