In my last year of university, I saw an ad for a day of hang gliding at a farm in Orangeville. I signed up on a whim, even though none of my friends were interested in joining me. A few weeks later, I was riding in a van towards the launching spot with three strangers who had signed up as well.
I must have picked the short straw because I was up first. An instructor helped me zip myself into a double sleeping bag that hung from the metal triangle attached to the glider. Its wings resting lightly on the ground, the glider sat a few meters away from a small plane. My instructor then scooched into his side of the sleeping bag and we both wrapped our hands around the bottom bar of the triangle, his left hand overlapping my right.
The plane started up ahead of us and began moving forward, a thick rope tightening between it and the glider. The glider’s wings began to bump along the ground, and we were slowly dragged beneath in our sleeping bag. The plane suddenly lifted into the air, pulling us with it as it climbed higher and higher.
Hundreds of feet it rose until finally, at about a thousand feet up, the plane stopped climbing and I tried to prepare myself for what I knew was coming next. I’d been warned about the drop that would happen when the line was cut between us and the plane; how we would nosedive for a hundred feet before leveling out again.
No amount of warning could have truly prepared me for that moment though, nor the panic that arose as we suddenly plunged back down towards earth while the plane carried on its way, the rope now dangling free behind it. My eyes bulged and my chest clenched in terror, taking my breath away. I couldn’t think and all I could feel was total fear and complete helplessness. There was no way off that roller coaster.
Instead of enjoying the experience of looking out over the land, feeling liberated and joyful as I’d anticipated, I spent the remaining time trying to avoid looking down and just getting through that crazy ride without losing my mind. Relief was twenty minutes coming when the glider finally approached the ground, our bodies touching down first, bouncing off the ground with the stuffing of the sleeping bag barely breaking our impact.
Do I regret doing it? Not a chance. Rather, I would regret not having done it because as I get older, these types of adventures become less and less accessible for me. I can barely stand driving on the highway anymore.
Is this kind of thing typical of me? It sure is. There are a few key moments in my life where I have stepped away from the mundane and done something dramatic, perhaps in an effort to shake up my body and mind and experience something different, or somehow change the course of my road ahead.
Do I hope I keep doing this sort of thing in the future? You bet. In fact, I think the reason I’m bringing up this memory is to remind myself of this daring quality of mine, and how it usually works out for the better. I believe each of us has our own inspirational fables, memories of significant moments in our lives where we dug deep and did something we never had before – and it lives on in our memory to serve as proof that we have it in us to try again.
Do I have something specific in my mind, for my next adventure? Yes, I do. And you’re going to see it unfold here in the months ahead, hopefully with the same excitement (and a little nervous energy) that I have.
For your own reflection:
1. What memory do you have of doing something daring or different?
2. How did the actual experience compare with your expectations for it?
3. What impact did it have on you? What’s the moral of the story that you carry with you?