Standing on the platform with the rest of the group, snuggly strapped in my beefy harness, I intently listened to every heavily accented word the instructor said. With every piece of new information, my mind went racing to another what if scenario.
“What if I get stuck halfway through? I don’t want the embarrassment of someone having to rescue me.”
“What if I don’t shift my body in time and crash into the next platform? Worse, what if I knock the others off the platform?”
“What if I hate it? Once I commit, there’s no way out.”
“What if the cable breaks and I fall to my death 2000 feet below? Surely that was what the liability waiver we signed was about.”
“What if I died and Ariana was left alone without a mother?”
But every time a What-If threatened to completely hijack my imagination and destroy my will, I would be drawn back by the stunning beauty in front of me and the potential of the daunting yet exciting adventure.
I was in Costa Rica with my family, and my husband and I decided to go zip lining. It was the most beautiful location — nestled in the small town of La Fortuna with the active Arenal Volcano in the backdrop. Mirrored in the calmness of the Arenal Lake was the forest of a towering canopy with lush green undergrowth covering the forest floor. The zip-lining adventure was 12 platforms with cables up to 2600 feet connecting mountains. At the highest point we would be 660(!) ft above the canopy. Mind you, I never considered myself an adventurous person. This was going to be a very challenging new experience for me.
We had two chances to practice before we committed to the 12 platforms making our way down the mountain — neither felt worthy of the daunting undertaking that lay ahead. The first practice, an 8 ft run, 8 feet off the ground felt like child’s play. But I was comforted to know the harness and the cable held my weight and I could move. The second practice was a 25 ft run, 25 feet off the ground. I grew confident that I could stop in time. But, in reality, neither made me feel fully ready for the next run on a 2000 foot cable.
I took that proverbial “leap of faith” and committed..
So there I was, the next person resigned to place complete trust in the cable and harness and a few hastily learned techniques. All I recall was holding the handle next to the pulley that attached my harness to the cable so tight that I surely left a dent in it. My eyes were squeezed tightly shut as I lifted my feet off the first platform and unconsciously let out a chilling primal scream of fear (as my daughter vividly recalls).
After a few seconds(?) of terror passed, I decided to release my eyelids and open my eyes. What I saw was the most beautiful sight I could ever imagine. I loosened my grip on the handle a bit while still holding on. I relaxed a little more and became mindful of the cool forest-fresh breeze on my face. I let my legs out and relaxed some more. A smile flooded my face. All fear melted away. I was flying. Euphoria.
I suddenly realized I was rapidly approaching the next platform. I moved my body into position, exactly as instructed and remarkably stuck the landing on the platform. I was elated. I could not wait to get on the next cable and fly again!
Every time I look back on that marvelous experience of zip lining in Costa Rica, I wonder: What if I had let all the potential risks stop me? What if I never gave myself the opportunity of that experience? — That would have been the biggest risk of all. A future deep regret, no doubt.
I still ask a lot of What Ifs — except now instead of asking the What if from a place of fear, I ask it from a place of possibility — What if everything works out just right? Or better than I ever imagined?
This fortuitous Costa Rican adventure reshaped my life and has allowed me to embark on an entrepreneurial journey that feels very much like flying from one platform to the next. Now, any time I lift my feet off of a platform of security, I do so knowing — and having directly experienced — that nothing worthwhile comes without risk, that I can place trust in others to do their part, and that I can trust myself to summon all of the courage and self-confidence I’ll need to stick the next landing.