I recently went skydiving in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Since then I’ve been asked by numerous people why I would take such a risk. “What’s the point?” they say. “Why would you risk so much for a quick adrenaline rush?”
Well you probably don’t know this about me, but I’m not exactly an adrenaline junky. I don’t get my kicks from roller coasters or bungee jumping or white water rafting or sky diving. I get all the thrills I need from everyday novelty, learning, and pursuing my passions.
I don’t go out of my way to put myself in harm’s way.
So why the whole skydiving thing?
Consider this: as soon as you say you won’t do something, you’ve put a ceiling on your life.
No matter how far you go or how hard you strive, you’ll still have that limitation in place, taunting you with its shiny impermeability and brick-like dogmatism.
If I were to say “I will not go sky diving,” then if someone asks me to go bungie jumping with them, it’s easy for me to say no. “After all, I won’t go sky diving, so why would I go bungie jumping?”
At that point I have an excuse for anything that gives me a moment’s pause.
“Flying? Nah, too risky. They travel really high up, you know, and landing is no cake-walk.”
“Ugh, driving is really dangerous. Have you seen the traffic fatality statistic? No thank you.”
“Walking down the street is for the birds. Who wants to chance getting hit over the head and robbed? I’ll just sit here quietly, good and safe.”
You get the point.
My solution is to leave myself open to anything, and if a new opportunity presents itself (and it’s not ridiculously dangerous with no rewards, like, say, Russian Roulette) I’ll take it. With gusto.
After all, how can you expect to fly if you aren’t willing to risk falling?
Update: December 11, 2016
I’m still glad I jumped out of that plane: there was this immense, memorable sense of vertigo at the beginning, and then a whole lot of falling that felt like not falling, strangely.
I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it again, but like I said in the essay, it’s nice not having that ceiling. And I find myself using the same math for other things, too. So long as it’s not truly abhorrent or stupid, I’ll try things that I’m not drawn to, simply because I want to see what that angle of life or flavor of experience is like. That makes it easier, then, to make an informed decision about whether to investigate further in that direction.