Taking a risk is worth it

When I was little, one of my favorite things to do was jump out of a moving swing. With a thrill and perhaps a little nervous exhilaration, I would jump from as high as a dared. The sound of passing wind would tickle my ears as I rushed through it on the way to the ground below.

And then I would land, feet securely underneath me. I might rush off to play somewhere else, but the abandon I felt in experiencing the breathtaking combination of swinging up high enough so only my feet were in my line of sight, slowing slightly and then jumping, always called me back.

I still love to swing. When my kids were little, I found it most enjoyable to slip them onto my lap and swing us back and forth. Tucked securely under the weight of my arm, they would giggle as we climbed higher and higher.

Sometimes my youngest will still request this activity, and I oblige. More often though, my three will beg for underdogs, even though they can easily swing themselves. So I grab hold of their swing and sprint underneath as they laugh and ask for more. They must like the wind in their faces, too.

One day, several weeks ago, as winter gave way for a moment to the warmth of spring, I decided to go for a walk. It had been a particularly rough time preceding that day. I had just wrote and published a blog post about my current fight with depression. I was emotionally spent, though joyfully light, and walking in the sunshine took on figurative significance.

We now live down the street from the park, so I decided to journey there and walk around the tree-lined drive. The whole while I was walking, I had been debating whether I would swing or not. The idea just seemed like a magnet,drawing me in.

Before I lost my nerve, I rounded the bend and made my way to the swingset. With my kids in tow, swinging seems like a normal activity. Alone, I was a bit self-conscious. But I decided to go for it after all.

So, like any days-away-from-35 adult would do, I looked around to make sure no one was watching. No one. I was alone. (And I’m glad, because if there had been curious eyes around, I probably would have chickened out.)

I got on a swing and started propelling myself higher and higher. My only intent was to swing as high as I could just to feel the wind in my face. But then, I started thinking about the other half of the exhilarating combination. Could I? SHOULD I?

Probably not.

But that old thrill started rising. I felt so alive. So I jumped. Mid-air, my mind started screaming, “Too high! ABORT!” But it was too late. My feet hit the ground, but not with the athletic prowess of my youth. Rather than land like a cat and scamper off to conquer the next thing, my body did a funny thing. It propelled forward.

With all grace and dignity—I’m sure, because what else would it look like for an adult to fall on her face while jumping from a swing?—I tumbled forward, crashing and rolling out of the rubber safety net of the swingset and onto the grass beyond.

I quickly looked around as the pain of impact registered. Did anyone see that? Nope. And then I burst out in laughter as I quickly got myself back on my feet. I returned to my walk, laughing all the way home.

Despite my fall, I was proud of myself that day. And in remembering, that hasn’t changed.

You see, until that moment, I’d been too scared to really jump. I tested the waters once, letting the swing slow way down and then gently scooting myself out to make it feel (and appear) like I jumped. But it was a lie. This time, I had let it fly. And even though I tumbled, I’m glad I did it. I took a risk. I didn’t stick the landing. But I’ll do better next time!

Malinda Just has been writing Lipstick & Pearls for the Free Press since 2008. To read more of her writing visit her blog, malindajust.com.