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It’s not the fall that kills you…

When I was a child I had the most wonderful recurring dream. I would find myself in a flat, grassy meadow. Toward where the meadow ended was a dense forest. At the end of the trees, my mother and father stood side by side with my little brother in front of them as if they were posing for a picture. Instead I was posing for the picture as they had the camera. I can’t remember if I was instructed or if I just did but next I would backup slowly until I came to the other edge of the meadow which was a sharp cliff. Without hesitation or words I would turn and jump off.

The cool part of the dream is I would wake before ever hitting the ground. I would always wake with a gasp like I had been underwater. And I would be on my back bouncing in the bed as if I really fell and the bed caught me. It was an exhilarating experience and for awhile happened most nights.

Like others, this dream has long since ended.

Because of this dream, for much of my teens I was convinced that my death would be from a high fall probably in the mountains although I presume tall buildings would count. When riding my motorcycle through The Tail of the Dragon (see also) I often would ponder how easily it would be to speed off one of the cliffs and just soar through the air. I bet you could get an incredible amount of hang time! Can you imagine the inner turmoil as the ground rushed up and you mentally fought to stay in the air or struggled to convince gravity that you’d changed your mind?

It is no secret that I’m a thrill seeker; an adrenaline junkie. I like the edge. I like to try to explore my limits. Spelunking, rappelling, and rock climbing have all put me on the verticle side of cliffs. Although I’ve had the pleasure of stalling a glider plane at 1219 meters, I have yet to experience a hang glider or parachuting.

Shortly after my nervous breakdown I took a job in downtown Knoxville at a building with a 5 story parking garage attached to it. The people I worked with were serious smokers and would take their smoke breaks upon the roof of the parking garage. The edge of this parking structure was a nearly chest high with the top of this wall being flat and nearly 40 cm across. I did not smoke but would join them for conversation. My favorite place to be was on this wall and I would get there by taking a few quick strides and launching myself atop it. I guess as I looked down this roughly 16.5 meter drop that I received some thrill. I don’t know why I was doing it. One slip. One trip. One mistake would have fulfilled that childhood prediction of my end.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t hoping for a mistake. I know my bounds and stay confined to them. My margins of safety just extend a little beyond the comfort zone of most people. I’m still a thrill seeker. I like the rush. Now that I have a wife and children who depend on me, my margins have been reeled in a bit but probably are still outside most people’s comfort zone.

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