I do it, as I do everything in life, just for the hope that I’ll feel something real. That I will experience a bit of honest emotion, be it triumph or pain or fear. That I will feel exhilaration. That I will get butterflies in my stomach. That pride that comes with accomplishing something that others are scared to attempt. I cliff dive because I have no fear. Because a lot of times I’m not smart enough to be afraid. Because the rush of raw emotion accompanied by adrenaline outweighs the inherent danger.
I’m a pretty mellow dude. Sometimes to a fault. I haven’t always been this way. It took a lot of life, and a lot of pain to get to this place. You can train yourself not to show anything, and then you can go a step further, and train yourself not to actually feel anything. Somewhere along the line, I convinced myself that this was a better way to live. Not to get too high, not to fall too low. Everything is temporary. There will be ups and downs, and nothing is ever as great or as horrible as it seems at the time. Don’t put too much faith in others, and you won’t be let down. Don’t get too excited, because that feeling is not permanent. Don’t sweat your failures too much, because they will be forgotten soon enough. And eventually, you cease to feel anything at all. Everything can be shrugged off. And this is a horrible way to live.
There comes a point where you crave emotion, of any kind. And so you do reckless things, like driving too fast, or drinking too much, or getting into fights…or jumping off cliffs. I jump off cliffs. Lots of perfectly normal, well-adjusted, happy people jump off cliffs for all sorts of reasons. I am not one of those people. I jump off cliffs because it’s dangerous, because it scares me. And I do it with no hesitation at all. I crave, or maybe it’s more that I’m addicted, to the butterflies in my stomach. The disorienting feeling of looking over the edge, and the questioning thoughts, “Is this really a good idea?…Fuck, is this even possible?” Am I physically capable of jumping from this high, hitting water and possibly rocks at high speeds, and then, if all goes well, swimming back to shore?
And I do it. Again and again. Until I’m sunburned and so exhausted that I can barely climb back up. And yet I’ll throw myself off one more time. While other people are peering over the edge, trying to work up the nerve to fall from the rocks, I’ll climb five feet higher, and launch myself over their heads. I’ll do flips and back-flips and straight jumps and back-dives. But my favorite is the head first swan dive. I will get a running start if space allows, or just lunch from the rock if not, headfirst, soaring for a minute, taking in the view as I fly more forward than down. At some point gravity will take over, and I’ll start to pick up speed as I fall. My arms stretch downward, braced for impact, and my legs point straight up towards the sky. And if I’m lucky, just for a split second, I will feel scared.
I will feel alive.
Sean writes at The Anarchist Project