Of fear and flying

As can probably be guessed from the complete lack of posts since the 17th — evil day job struck again.

The plus side is that evil day job involved going to Monkey C Monkey Do yesterday, which almost makes up for all the hellaciousness that came before. If you ever get the chance to go to Monkey — do.

At first glance, I think almost everyone was disappointed at how small it actually was in real life. What we didn’t realize was that it is built vertically rather than horizontally. So we had three levels of rope and challenge courses, just all stacked on top of each other. The 2.5 hours that they allot to you is actually not quite enough for a not-quite-fit pair of people to work their way through every single challenge. I skipped some of the tier 3 challenges in favor of using the Big Swing and the high zipline.

Both of which are amazing. Let me emphasize that again: AMAZING.

There are other, closer, rope courses in MA and so I was contemplating not going 3 hours to Maine for this sort of thing again until I  experienced the Big Swing. Essentially, you’re about three floors up, they hook you in, and you sort of lean over to the left until you topple off the ledge into a swaying, soaring, twirling, diving sequence of motions.

It’s not like bungee jumping at all, where from what I can tell, you just go mostly vertically up and down. In this, you really feel like you’re soaring, gliding, then suddenly diving to ground and back up again.

I have an unholy fear of heights. I really do. I don’t visit “highest building in the world” type tourist places, flying in planes is a nightmare, and I probably will never understand the appeal of something like sky diving or even something as tame as eating in a restaurant with a glass floor balcony on the top of a skyscraper. For the first part of the tier 1 to tier 2 challenges, my boyfriend looked at my set face, my shaking limbs, my hands cramping from gripping onto my harness too tightly, and asked me with all seriousness if I needed to stop because it didn’t look like I was having fun.

I was and I wasn’t.

I love rope courses. I love proving to myself that I can do highly physical things like that. But my fear was overwhelming, the sweat sliding down my spine cold from fear and not hot from exertion. My mind was clouding and blanking from stress, anxiety, and just sheer terror.

But then I did the lower zipline once, trusted in the harness to keep me safe, and it did. Things got better after that. Better to the point where I could go through to the end of the course.

Yesterday I proved to myself that I am more than just someone who reacts to her fears, rational or otherwise. I got to the top of the course, where it was 50 feet up in the air, with nothing between me and the air but a harness and a small wooden platform, and stepped off. I sat on a ledge, feet hanging in air, and let myself tip over and off into a gutwrenching, ecstatic experience where I could almost believe I was flying.

I’ve always been a fearful person, and I hated that about myself. I don’t walk alone at night. I quit figure skating lessons when we got to the jumping and spinning because I had an unholy fear of breaking something, anything. I didn’t say yes to spending my first year in Italy when NYU wanted me to attend, but wanted me to go to Florence first, because I was terrified of going alone, to a country where I didn’t speak the language. I’ve missed so many opportunities, so many possibly amazing experiences and people — because I’ve been so afraid.

You know what? I’m still afraid. I still won’t go walking alone after dark. But next time, when I have the chance to do something like stepping off a ledge into thin air with the promise of an exhilarating journey — I’ll trust that I have a safety harness in place in the form of my family, friends, and boyfriend — and take that step.

If you’re ever in the area, try Monkey C Monkey Do. Roland and all of his staff were amazing, supportive, and enthusiastic about being encouraging. Not only were they truly friendly, kind people, but I also appreciated that even though our numbers dropped from 35 to 15, they still gave me that group rate they quoted me. I felt terrible about our numbers dropping like that and I would have been completely willing to pay normal prices, but they didn’t even mention it. Stunningly lovely experience and if they weren’t shutting down for the year next week, I’d love to make the trip again.

I will definitely go back again, because I want to learn again that feeling of soaring, of flying, of being much more than I thought I could be.

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