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The Point of No Return
I have never been one to turn down a challenge. I’m a daredevil, the type of teenager who spent last summer backpacking in the mountains and deserts of Oregon. During the winter, I love skiing down the steepest slopes the sport has to offer. So, when I arrived at the high ropes course at my school’s annual camping trip, the activity called the Leap of Faith sounded like my kind of adventure. My past experiences have shown me that these types of “leaps” tend to be tamer than one would think. I had never underestimated something so dramatically in my life.
As soon as the director finished his way-too-long speech, I raced to slip into my harness so I could be first in line. I was disappointed to see that I was second. Then, my eyes traveled over to the Leap of Faith, and my heart skipped a beat. I now stood face to face with what looked like a thirty-foot-tall telephone pole with staples up the side. I would be expected to climb to the top and then jump. A bungee-like rope hung limply next to the pole and the rope looked incapable of supporting me as I plummeted towards the ground. The idea was that the rope would cause me to bounce back up before impact. For once, I was glad not to be first. I tried to focus as the current “victim” began his ascent, but my mind was drowned in a torrent of thoughts.
What have I gotten myself into? This thing looks more like the Leap of Death. Does this look safe? No it doesn’t. Well it has to be. Right? Why did I have to look so confident? Can I back down now? No, I can’t, without looking completely chicken. The Leap of Faith loomed above me like a mythical giant overlooking its human prey. I began formulating an escape plan, but before it was complete, I was dragged back into reality with two terrifying words from the belayer, “Next up.”
Slowly, I turned to face my thirty-foot-tall adversary. It was a chilly day for mid-September, and I shivered; yet, it wasn’t because of the cold. I approached the belayer as she handed me the rope and carabiner. As I ran through the safety checks, I began to inch forward toward the base of the telephone poll. The rope felt slimy in my nervous, sweaty hands. This was it. I knew that once I initiated the safety commands, I would cross the point of no return.
“On belay,” I shakily mumbled.
“Belay is on,” she responded. I could barely hear her as my head buzzed with thoughts of my demise.
“Climbing,” I managed to mutter.
“Climb away!” As those words left her mouth, my feet left the ground. I began my ascent up the staples to the top.
At first, I breathed a sigh of relief because the pole did not seem as unstable as it appeared from the ground. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that I had misjudged something once again. My legs wobbled from side to side uncontrollably with each additional step into the air. I felt like a large man was at the bottom of the pole shaking it back and forth, and I couldn’t make him stop! I focused intently on moving the pole as little as possible, even though the higher I went, the more sensitive it became.
Before I knew it, my hand reached something flat and I had arrived at the top. Now, it was time for the hardest part of the entire challenge: I had to move my feet onto the top of the pole, which had a diameter of less than twelve inches. With my knees and ankles trembling like crazy, I put my right foot on top. The pole shuddered even more than it had thus far, and I almost lost my balance. Now for the hardest part, getting my left foot on top without falling off. I whispered, “One, two, three!” I don’t know if it was luck, magic, skill, or some combination thereof, but I was suddenly standing on top of the Leap of Faith. My feet felt like they were glued to the spot. My hands gripped the tiny metal staple at the top of the pole, and I had a difficult time imagining how I was going to let it go.
I shouted down to my belayer, “I’m going to go on three, okay?”
“Whenever you want. You’re doing great!” It hit me that there was only one way to get this over with, and it was to jump.
“One!” I shouted.
I can do this, I desperately tried to convince myself.
What in the world am I doing up here? My throat felt like sandpaper.
“Three!” I shouted and took my Leap of Faith. At least, I think I said “Three!” If I did, it was drowned out by the much louder sound of my screaming the whole way down. But before I could imagine the words engraved on my tombstone, the rope tightened, and the harness jerked me up from the rapidly approaching ground. As I was slowly lowered to safety, my friends ran up to me and gave me high-fives. I was happy to be on the ground and not dead.
Ironically, one thought had already taken root deep in my adventure-loving mind, and I knew it was inevitable. “I want to do it again. Maybe, even backwards, next time.”
And I did.