When Was The Last Time You Just Jumped In?


It wasn’t a dare. It was a polite invitation. Just a simple proposition, really. But it sent my imagination rushing backward, years flashing by. I curled my toes over the rough rock outcropping and looked out across the lake. Jillian waved her arms gracefully through the top of the water, treading a few feet out from the bank and calling to those of us on the rocks: “Anyone want to swim to the other side with me?” In the glint of the North Cascades sun on the water, I saw the path of my life diverge.

When was the last time I’d taken a running leap and splashed into a body of water? Or run across a field of grass simply because it felt wonderful? Growing up does funny things to us humans. I think it starts when we’re teenagers, growing uncomfortable in our own skins and deathly fearing anything that would make us look or feel uncool. We reign in our natural movements. We start to sneak glances of ourselves in reflective windows as we pass by. We become “too cool” for this, “too grown up” for that.

Many of us become hyper-conscious of our bodies. Would my thighs jiggle unflatteringly if I wear this? Would someone see my flaws if I stepped out in front of the crowd to do that? And instead of facing our fears, we become content to sit on the sidelines. Comfortable. Secure.

The breeze fluttered in the trees over my head as I looked out across the lake, gauging my swimming skills against the still, chilly mountain water. I remembered jumping and diving into the swimming pool over and over and over as a child. It was so simple: It was fun, so I didn’t want to stop doing it.

My freshman year of college, I would load up my friends in a car to drive out to the abandoned limestone quarry on the edge of town. In Speedos and Chacos we’d step cautiously up to the edge of the cliff, waiting for the first one to make the 30-foot jump. Then the rest of us would follow, one at a time making the leap that would send our stomachs into our throats and suck the air from our lungs in shrieks of fear and pleasure. I’m sure part of my motivation to do that was to show off, but one thing I remember is how alive and free I felt.

Ten years later, standing on the edge of the lake in my 30-something body with my early 30-something insecurities, I saw clearly the two directions I could let my mind and heart—and, therefore, my body—go. I could stay wrapped in my towel shyly on the bank and watch while Jillian stroked her way through the smooth, glistening water to the other side. I’d be comfortable. Probably warmer. I’d avoid the bubbly feeling of subtle fear that comes with finding yourself far from the edge of a body of water. There would be nothing inherently wrong with deciding to stay on the beach and enjoying the afternoon at the lake like a grownup, sunbathing on my towel.

But my heart saw the symbolic moment. I think we all face these moments once in a while: Do we content ourselves on the sidelines, watching other people live the crazy, beautiful moments we dream about? Or do we dive into the cold water, braving the tinges of fear and coming alive in the adventure again the way we were when we were too young to worry about acting “grown up?”

So I jumped.

Photo courtesy of Ville .fi via Creative Commons.

4 Responses to When Was The Last Time You Just Jumped In?

  1. We were up in Northumberland recently exploring the rock pools north of Bamburgh. There are some fantastic pools up there. The weather wasn’t great, but the kids quickly got into their wetsuits and braved the freezing water.

    Me? I sat on the side and watched as they jumped and played, daring each other to jump again.

    Now I wish I’d jumped too.

    Next time…

  2. Nate Furman says:

    As much as I wish it were different, I actively dislike jumping into cold rivers. I know that I’m supposed to like it, but instead of finding it exhilarating, I think it’s uncomfortable to the point of almost painful.

    Which would be okay, except for Oscar Shropshire. Oscar and his brother Corey were roughnecks from Southern California and it was really just a random stroke of luck that we became friends in college. Oscar became my hero; a great friend who was five years older than I, and enjoyed life way more than most humans. He loved jumping into each high mountain pool we encountered on our hiking and mountain biking adventures. He told me that it was mandatory, and of course I followed suit, hiding my dislike for the combination of freezing water and loss of breath.

    We’ve lost touch over the years. But out of honor of Oscar, I force myself to jump in at (almost) every opportunity. I still hate it, but in doing so I rekindle the memory of one of my first adventure companions, and also recognize a thing in myself that wants to be more than it is.

    Thanks, Hilary, for another great article.

  3. Morning before my first dory triplead – and this is the PERFECT reminder. Thank you Hilary for the great words.

  4. Jay Long says:

    Great essay. Does remind us to use it or…else.

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