I’m not sure when it began, but sometime during our nearly 6 years together, I started a tradition of giving Jeff the gift of a new adventure each year for his birthday. I mean, the guy has great taste and can online shop with the best of ’em, so buying him things and stuff is relatively pointless. So every year now, I have him clear his schedule for the day, put him in the car, and treat him to something he’s never done before. This gift has taken us sunrise paddle boarding, horseback riding, surfing, and this year? Zip lining.
In my efforts to seek out something new and somewhat unusual to gift Jeff this year, I stumbled upon a zip lining course about two hours from our home. I was so proud of myself, knowing he’d never guess it, imagining his face as we pulled up to the forested course outside of Fayetteville, watching him fly through the treetops with a a massive grin on his face… I was giddy just thinking about it.
So proud of myself was I, in fact, that I really hadn’t stopped to think about what exactly zip lining entailed. That is, until we were climbing up a wooden staircase to a swaying platform in the treetops being lined up for our very first zip. Did I forget to mention I have a pretty paralyzing fear of heights?
One summer, my mom took my siblings and I to walk the bridge across Colorado’s Royal Gorge. This bridge, while I’m sure solidly engineered and all, is see-through. That is, you can see through the slats right down to the Arkansas River 955 feet below. That was the moment we all learned, painfully, that I had this fear of heights. I clung desperately to my mom’s sleeve, looking straight ahead and singing the “50 Nifty United States” song the for the entire, two-way trip.
So when I was volunteered by our fearless zip tour guide (seriously, this guy thought it was hilarious to pretend to fall off the platforms) to go first on the first of many zip lines, a sense of panic set in. My chest felt tight even as I nonchalantly took the lead. Stepping up on the tree stump to get hooked onto the line was like stepping up to the gallows. From there I had a pretty good view of what I’d be stepping off into – largely, a whole lot of nothing. The ground lay a good 40 feet below.
Cutting and running was not an option. I mean, yes, I could chicken out now and climb back down the stairs and wait for Jeff at the course’s end. But we had faced every other birthday adventure together (and I know for a fact he;d been uneasy about that horse but had climbed on nonetheless), and we’d survive this one together, too. And I wouldn’t just survive it, I’d lead the way. I’d blaze the trail, leading us onward and upward (literally) into the unknown.
You see I had to.
Because this is where Jeff and I are right now. Once again we find ourselves on the brink of a Royal Gorge-sized unknown. At summer’s end, we’ll be packing up and leaving Wilmington, ending our 5-year stretch of beach living, and moving on to… what? Good question. Much like the longer zip lines on our tour, you just can’t see the next tree tower from where you’re stepping off. The zip line vanishes into the canopy, and you’re required to have a bit of faith and optimism. Of course you know in your head that there’s another tower out there waiting for you on the other end. But you’re not sure where it lies, or what it looks like. Ditto for our future. We’re extremely capable, hard-working, motivated, passionate people. There is something out there, waiting for us. But we’ll never reach it until we step off, fling ourselves into the unknown, and seek out the next platform – the next step in this wild and crazy zip tour that is life.
So that sunny afternoon, I gave one look back down at the group standing below me. And there was Jeff – his smile beaming back at me among the anticipating faces.
We got this.