Bungee jumping stock

Try something new and scary. Columnist Amy Albrecht strongly recommends it.

I’m telling you right now, I am not a risk-taker. I am a fraidy cat, a wuss, a straight arrow. I didn’t drink in high school. There wasn’t even the contemplation of sneaking out of the house. No illicit substances (other than upside-down screwdrivers and the like) entered my temple of a body during college. And don’t dare me or try to shame me into doing something edgy. It won’t work. I will just back away more quickly.

All of this would explain why it was so profoundly out of character for me to jump off a perfectly good bridge in New Zealand with a bungee rope tied to my ankles. Yep, at the tender age of 23, my pal Dana and I went to the birthplace of bungee jumping in Queenstown, and I signed up.

Did I mention that I am deathly afraid of heights?

And the bridge above the Nevis River is about 13 stories up. I allowed strangers to tie a rope around my ankles, put me on a tiny platform on the bridge and then push me off. They would probably deny having pushed me, but I can tell you with complete certainty that once I made the mistake of looking down, I was not going off that bridge by jumping.

My questionable logic for this insane decision was that if I jumped off a high point, it would cure my fear of heights. Guess how that turned out? Now I know exactly how it feels to fall 141 feet (to my death, I was certain). And not just once. Oh no, it’s a bouncy rope so you spring back up and fall again. And again. So just when I was congratulating myself for not dying, I fell two more times. There are no words for that level of terror. I bought the official pictures knowing no one would believe me when I told them I bungee jumped. On purpose. And paid good money for the privilege.

Now it’s 30 years later, and I have teenaged children. They’re not complete daredevils, but they’re certainly happy to make what I would call questionable decisions. Especially if we’re talking about health and safety. But they make me push my boundaries. They’re about the only people who can goad me into doing something that is way outside my comfort zone. Because I want to experience it with them.

This past weekend, the boys and I went to Austin, Texas, to stay with my New Zealand travel partner, Dana. She had an epic schedule prepared for us, and I was not going to be left behind. First, we zip lined across Lake Travis. I had never zip lined — probably because it always occurs at absurd heights and a high rate of speed.

The boys went first, which was good because then I knew there was a place to stop on the other side. That wasn’t immediately evident from where I was standing, a million miles away. It was not comforting when the guides kept repeating speeds like 55 mph and a half-mile-long zip line. It makes no rational sense but turns out zipping along at quite a clip hundreds of feet above water doesn’t petrify me. They didn’t even have to pry my fingers off the rope. Progress!

On Sunday we went to iFly, an indoor sky diving place. Of course, the boys were all over it. I was a little hesitant. I mean, you’re not jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, but you are floating and spinning in a roaring vertical wind tunnel. Seems a little dodgy. We wore flight suits and helmets though, so we looked the part, and it felt like safety first.

There was a birthday party ahead of us, so we watched very young and trusting children launch themselves into the tunnel. It was both reassuring yet unhelpful. I mean, who hasn’t seen toddlers zoom down the double black diamond ski slope? I figure they just don’t know enough to be properly petrified. And they’re closer to the ground.

Anyway, indoor skydiving is such a rush! You have an instructor with you, and they guide your body on the current. We even did a high fly — incredible! I could almost convince myself that skydiving could be in my future. Then I woke up and remembered who I am.

The moral of this column is that in all these scenarios, I wasn’t in real danger, but I was pushing myself to try something new and scary. I strongly recommend it. Now the boys and I have shared memories of adrenaline rushes, and I’m not experiencing their adventures secondhand. Plus, maybe I convinced them that I may be old, but I’m not a complete wuss. Worth it!

Amy Albrecht is director of the Center for a Vital Community. 

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