They took a running start. As fast as they could, they jumped into the water. Their laughter was followed by a splash. I stood behind them, peering out from between my fingers and shaking my head emphatically no way. They were jumping off a cliff. I was white-water rafting down the Bow River in Alberta. My friends had arranged the trip and surprised me with the rafting. Maybe they suspected that had I had time to think about it, I would have found a good reason not to go. Keeping me in the dark was their way of ensuring my attendance. Ignorance is bliss.
At 8:00 a.m., as we stood in our cold damp wetsuits and received safety tips such as, “please try to make eye contact if you fall out so that we know you’re conscious,” I was seriously contemplating being a big wimp and waiting in my warm car. But by 2:00 p.m. when we were finished, I was the one saying, “So that’s it? It’s over? Can we go again?”
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m no risk-taker. I like to try new things, but I’ve come to understand that I’m the girl who puts her toes in the water before she dives in. I learned this about myself a few years ago when I began mountain biking with group of more experienced riders. They laughed and said I couldn’t be forced into anything I didn’t want to do, and yet, I never turned down a chance to ride. I ended up looking forward to the uphill climbs because I knew it was the only chance I had to catch up. Not that the severe downhill plunges or skinny mountain-goat trails presented me with a real problem. I simply remained firmly seated and puttered along at my own speed. I even swallowed my pride and walked my bike down the really steep parts like any sensible person would do. Then, I pedaled as hard as I could uphill. I like to think of it as knowing my strengths.
I recently took up skiing after a seven-year hiatus. I discovered that I ski in much the same way that I bike. The difference with skiing is that I fell on one of my first runs. I hit the ice of a groomed run and tumbled. With my skis going opposite directions, I had to think quickly and abandon the left one. As I watched it slide down the hill without me, I realized falling wasn’t so bad. The thing with falling is that you don’t have a choice. Before you even know you’re going to fall, you’re on the ground. In the end, the fall was kind of like rafting “? cold at first, but then kind of fun.
This winter I got to try surfing, something I’ve always wanted to do. I wasn’t afraid — not even a little. Surfing is easy after you’ve braved white water and skied black diamonds. Okay, I didn’t stand up on my first wave. But by my second wave I figured I had it mastered and I surfed the wave in like a pro. Okay, like a total amateur, but it was great. After I swallowed most of the ocean and proceeded to run over a fellow surfer (he was in my way and really shouldn’t have been resting right there), I decided I should have jumped. When I was rafting and everyone jumped, I should have too. Of course, you risk-takers already knew that, didn’t you?