After Fiji, I spent a week touring the North Island of New Zealand before traveling to Australia for two weeks. And on the second day in NZ, we were given the choice whether we wanted to do a SkyWalk or a SkyJump from the 630foot (192m) high Auckland Sky Tower. With my new found courage from ‘conquering’ my fear through skydiving, I jumped at the chance – literally and figuratively – to free fall again and relive that adrenaline rush. All was well – they suited us up, took us on the elevator up to the top floor, gave us the necessary safety tutorials, and walked us out to the ledge where we would be jumping. And one by one, I watched my fellow travellers walk up to the edge, get hooked onto the cable that would steer us down to the ground level, and then jump, disappear over the ledge with an excited scream. And then it was my turn.
They had warned us beforehand that about 30ft (10m) after we jump, the cable stops so they can get a photo of you looking out over the cityscape. Only, what they didn’t warn us was while you are stopping, you also get the chance to realize how freakin’ high off the ground you are. I’m pretty sure people on the South Island could hear me wailing ‘OH SHIT!!’ repetitively for the rest of the what felt like forever fall. But somehow I kept my eyes open the entire time, and I was still determined to say ‘I am obviously over my fear – I just jumped 630 feet!’ (even though the jump completely petrified me.)
A few days later, we had the chance to go bungee jumping. And being a stubborn 18 year old, I jumped at the chance again. As my journal from the summer put it:
It was amazing!! I got stuck in the back as last which made me afraid I wouldn’t go because I would get too scared. But it was like skydiving because it didn’t hit me until I was already down. The bungy cord is heavy and pulls you when you walk to the edge. Then you go for it. The cord pulls after your free fall and sends you back for another freefall. Repeat 2-3-4 times until your momentum stops. Then a boat comes and gets you while you are hanging upside down and brings you to the hill to walk back up.
You would think that would be the end of the story, right? Jumping off cliffs, skydiving, SkyJump, bungee jump, obviously she isn’t afraid of heights anymore? Jump forward a week. Australia – Cairns to be specific. We again had the opportunity to do a bungee jump, and being the cocky/stubborn 18 year old with plenty of ‘evidence’ to think I had conquered my fear, I volunteered to go first.
Then I saw it. There were 50 flights of stairs that we had to climb to get to the top of the platform. And my cocky/stubborn-ness faded away. I was petrified. Literally. After some coaxing from my friends, I finally started up the stairs towards my impending doom. When we finally reached the top, and it was my turn to go, and my legs had already been strapped to the cable – my hands chose a different option than jumping down. I wish I had photos that showed me clinging on for dear life to the railing leading up to the jump, practically in tears with fear, refusing repeatedly to jump despite everyone’s efforts to convince me it would be fun.
See that person clinging on for dear life? Yep, thats me. And from that day forward I learned something – I am not as badass as I think I am (which is also a lesson I have had to relearn a few times since then), and I will always be afraid of heights. Because when it comes down to it, even if my mind thinks I am invincible and can do anything because I have done something equally or more crazy before, my body is 100% aware that I am human and break easily. And when my mind is too stupid to realize this, my body will always be there to remind me that even Achilles had a weak point.
As for whether I still consider myself afraid of heights? Yes, yes I do. But all those crazy things I did also made me realize that even when you are afraid of something, that doesn’t mean it has to stop you from doing cool things. Instead, you manage your fear and live your life on the edge!
Of course, though, sometimes the fear wins!