Running off the Edge

A number of people have pointed out that I haven’t exactly been on top of this blog lately. I’m very aware. But it’s not that I’ve been purposely neglecting updates, or that I don’t have anything new to say. Rather, I’ve been in an odd, constant cycle since getting back to New Zealand a month ago: thinking, moving; thinking, moving; thinking, moving — and it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to coherent writing. I’ve been sitting around a lot over-analyzing my next move, getting antsy, going on spur-of-the-moment adventures, and then being indecisive some more — as I am still, apparently, wont to do.

What is it that I’ve been so indecisive about? Taking a new plunge, you might say. Jumping off a new cliff. I’ve been putting irons in fires I’m not quite ready to light — or talk about — just yet. I’ll get there, I’m sure, but today is not the day.

So for now, in lieu of telling you about this metaphorical cliff I’m toeing the brink of, I thought I’d tell you about literally going off the edge. Neat how that works out, huh?

OK, maybe it’s a little too easy a connection to make: I’ll admit, my decision to go paragliding in Queenstown was partially fueled by my strong (perhaps irrational) belief that a good metaphor can kick one’s ass into gear when nothing else seems to do the trick. “If I can jump off an actual mountaintop,” I woke up the other morning and told myself, “then surely my decisiveness will return. Surely I’ll be ready to take some new risks and maybe even a leap of faith or two.”

I immediately rolled out of bed, slipped on a few layers of North Face, threw my hair in a ponytail, and headed straight for Queenstown’s Skyline gondola. I had no appointment and no idea what to expect, but half an hour and one cable-car ride later, I was standing at the top of Bob’s Peak, 450 meters above the city, and shimmying into a full-body harness.

My guide, Mike, was clacking metal hooks and buckles into place, yanking on thin little cords and inspecting the giant chute he’d already unfurled behind us in the minutes it had taken me to realize exactly what my fear of heights and I were doing up there.

“OK, Jessica. I’m going to say ‘walk,’ and we’re going to start walking forward,” Mike was suddenly saying behind me, shoving with his full body weight to guide me in the direction of the mountain’s very edge. “Then I’ll either say ‘stop’ — or I’ll say ‘run.'”

Nervous as I was, I couldn’t help but let out a small laugh. “Stop” or “run” — the story of my life. The dichotomy that got me here to New Zealand in the first place. The essence of the decisions I’m probably trying a little too hard to make right now.

I thought about it for a moment. “And when do I jump?” I asked.

“There’s no jumping. We just run and the wind will pick us up,” Mike answered. “You’ll feel your feet running on the ground and then, suddenly, you won’t. We’ll be in the air.”

I liked that: no flying leap necessary; no active decision that this was it. Nothing required of me but a trust that my own momentum would help me lift off if I just remembered to keep it going.

Mike never told me to stop, of course. We lumbered to the edge of the mountain awkwardly, heavily, picking up speed while strapped together like entrants in a downhill three-legged race, until I felt the parachute catch above us. I looked down at my feet and noticed they were scrambling around without resistance. Those tiny points of green beneath me – the ones that looked like little asparagus tips at the bottom of a canyon – were treetops on the mountainside. That flimsy green arch above my head; the rainbow-colored ropes hanging down from it – they were jerking me slowly up and away and over Lake Wakatipu, above rooftops, out towards the same mountain range I used to go for sunset runs to admire a seeming lifetime ago.

So here’s the part where I’m supposed to tell you I landed on my feet eight minutes later, softly in the field of a nearby primary school as a group of rugby players watched casually, with a bounce and an epiphany. Now’s the time I’d love to explain how I came away with a  renewed confidence in my own momentum and ability to take risks. But I don’t know if that’s how it worked out. I’m still in Queenstown, still unsure where I’m going next, still without a solid plan for what I’d like to do with the rest of this year. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll extend my timeframe abroad or wake up one day and realize I can’t wait to get back to some semblance of a “real” life with a grown-up job and a bed that’s not bunked.

What I can say is this: I know I can’t sit around just thinking about it forever. At some point I am going to have to let my momentum, or lack thereof, make up my mind for me. Until then, I’ll be trying to enjoy floating.

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9 thoughts on “Running off the Edge

  1. …but at the least, wasn’t it AWESOME??

    I did paragliding at this exact same spot in Queenstown last year, and it was maybe my favorite thing I did in NZ. I definitely remember being too terrified at the thought of running off a mountain to prepare for any major epiphanies, but sometimes I think it helps for us just to remember that most of the time, and with the help of some experienced guides, we’re going to land on our feet.

    good luck!

    • Indeed it was awesome! I’d wanted to do it when I was in Queenstown over the summer but never did, and now I’m so glad I was able to come back and give it a go in the winter. The snow on the Remarkables was just breathtaking, and the whole experience was so oddly peaceful once we’d actually taken off!

  2. Hiya. I thought I should thank you for your blog. I just spent the past week reading it from start to finish and it is absolutely brilliant.
    In 2011 my girlfriend (now wife) travelled the world for six months and we spent a wonderful 6 weeks in New Zealand as well as South East Asia (and South America) and so many of your experiences have brought back great memories.
    If you get time feel free to check out our blog…if for no other reason than to find out where to swim with wild dolphins in the most natural of circumstances!
    Keep blogging. And keep having a wonderful time!

    • What an amazing comment to wake up and find in my inbox! I’m thrilled to hear you enjoy the blog, especially if it helps you reminisce about your own travels! Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  3. Pingback: The Art of Standing Still While Moving « My Year on a Whim

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