I felt gravity take over, sucking me to its very core. There was no room for emotion now; I was enveloped in an endless continuum of silence, broken momentarily by the rhythmic thundering of my heart.
When I was younger, I was absolutely terrified of heights. I’d have nightmares in which I’d miss a step and fall into black holes of horror.
On my father’s 41st birthday, when I was about 10, we went for a picnic to Al Ahmedi Park in Kuwait. One of the many rides the park boasted of was a giant Pagoda. One had to climb up the ladder to the very top of the Pagoda, then jump into the skylight and land a couple of feet below into a sandpit. Clearing my head of all rational thought, I climbed all the way up making sure my father could see me. Needless to say, freefalls weren’t my thing.
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I looked down below and realized how impossibly high up above the ground I was; I looked behind me to see that there wasn’t any other kid climbing up the ladder –I decided to back down. What was the point, anyway? I wouldn’t be given a certificate or a medal for accomplishing this ‘life threatening feat’. But when I began to climb down, I realized that I was denying myself an experience I had never had before. Life’s greatest achievements aren’t measured in medals or certificates; knowing that I didn’t give up would be much more satisfying than going home wondering how it must feel –to let go of all control.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and jumped.
It was exhilarating. A scraped knee and a deep cut in my tongue were completely forgotten while I basked in the glory of my newfound intrepidity.
Ever since that day, I have let myself fall and as a result have overcome my inner demons. I’ve signed up for elocution sessions, poetry recitals, track and field, Moot Court sessions and singing onstage at various school as well as non-school events. The knowledge that I might not win the first prize at the end and that I may suddenly become grammatically handicapped or discover my ability to stutter like a pro under the stage lights, has never stopped me. I have always tested new grounds and have had the strength to let myself brush shoulders with failure. I have grown to realize that it is better to fail knowing that you tried; that going onstage to experience complete mortification is better than sitting in a dark corner, dreaming of an alternative existence where you could be bold enough to falter under public scrutiny. I have realized that it is better to fall a hundred times than to never take a single step forward.
I now know that the indefatigable sea waves which endlessly struggle to mould the sharp rocks lining the shore, are in fact much stronger than those massive boulders. It may take these waves a thousand years to crush the granite with their gentleness, but they are tireless in their labor. Their tenderness is not a weakness after all. I have learnt that working hard and not giving up hope, despite being aware of possible failure is what marks a successful person. I have learnt that the tiny ant –which scurries about its business all day long, and walks over all obstacles without pausing for a moment of hesitation –is worthy of idealizing.
I have lost more competitions than I have won; my bureau holds more certificates of participation than medals of success; I have tripped over and fallen countless number of times. I have learnt the meaning of success only through these failures; I have learnt to pick myself up, brush it off and forge ahead without shedding a single tear over my loss.
In many ways life is like a freefall: You don’t know what awaits you at the end–or in the middle come to think of it –and you know you’re not going to come out of it alive…but it’s all worth it. You just need to close your eyes and take that plunge, that leap of faith.