Aside one lone Instagram post about chickening out on bungee jumping, according to my social media accounts, I’d have you believing I was pretty invincible. Or at least, that’s what I’d like you to think seeing as those profiles are the cooler, more untouchable version of myself. As my own harshest critic, I’m always trying to one up the online edition of my life, be the awesome adventure girl, off doing things the average Joe doesn’t even know exists. Uncovering hidden gems. Always on the go, fearless.
It’s the ultimate catch 22 – I created this persona for myself because it’s what I want my life to be like (I could get really deep with this and tell you it’s because I went through that horrible awkward phase in high school, but I’ll spare you the details). The reality is five times out of 10 I’m at home working just like everybody else. On the random weekend or extended trips, I just happen to take tons of photos that I strategically space out and share throughout the month so it looks like I’m always on the go.
But you don’t care what I post on social media. You might care though, about what I don’t post. That’s what’s real. So let’s talk about fears for a second, and more specifically, the fear of missing out. FOMO is an increasingly common psychological condition caused by the angst social media is having on our lives. Usually, it’s about seeing others doing incredible things and feeling left out or insignificant. In my case, though, it was about not being able to live up to my own expectations. The pressure of always trying to be this image I made up.
To be clear, while I love adrenaline and adventures, I never wanted to go bungee jumping. It’s never been on my bucket list. I’m not scared of heights, but the idea of plunging headfirst off a cliff strapped to a rubber band never really sounded all that appealing. I just felt like I had to do it because it was one of the last “extreme” activities I hadn’t checked off a list. Seeing as it was invented in New Zealand, when in Rome, right? When I got up on that platform and looked out over the edge, shackled by the ankles, straps digging into my very raw sunburn and irritating my mosquito bites, I vividly and disturbingly pictured being hung up like a slave and realized just how strongly I had zero interest in doing it. I had just somehow convinced myself I needed to. Realizing this was no reason to do something, I bailed before the ballsy operators could push me over the edge like I’ve heard so often they do.
Realistically, had the circumstances been different I probably would have bit the bullet, given into peer pressure and gone through with it. But I was traveling alone, had no friends there to egg me on, and the rain was pelting like bullets. In fact, there wasn’t a single other person out there crazy enough to attempt a jump in that weather. No one was there to make me feel like we waited for hours in line, we might as well just do it. I didn’t lose any money because my jump had been comped, and I just didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything aside from a photo and bragging rights.
Over the years, there have only been a handful of challenges I backed out of. I never passed my SCUBA certification because I couldn’t flood the mask completely. As a lifeguard for four years, my body just would not let itself feel like I was drowning. It was completely unnatural and went against every possible survival instinct. Then there were the icy cliffs of Moab. Heights never bother me when there’s a harness or failsafe device, but strapped to nothing on the narrow ledges of black ice in January didn’t feel like a calculated risk, it felt like an unnecessary one. As much as I’d like to get that photo dangling over the edge of Devil’s Garden in Arches National Park, my body knows its limits and I turned around before reaching the end.
The only thing at stake here was pride. I had definitely hyped up that I was going bungee jumping and it was supposed to be a highlight of the trip. Could I live with myself for backing out? Eh. I’m not mad I didn’t do it, I’m mad that I let the one thing I didn’t do overshadow the entire trip. I let the one memory of the thing I passed on surpass the hundreds of other amazing moments, too worried about what other people would think.
And in case you were wondering, I did go off that ledge. It just happened to be on the canyon swing instead. It ended up being almost the exact same experience, but with the bonus of being able to look out over that landscape instead of plunging headfirst toward it.
Your journey does not have to fit into some box of what makes one person’s bucket list more legit than another. Life isn’t a checkbox. At least, that’s what I’m constantly having to remind myself. There’s no one judging you aside from yourself. There’s no one to say you’re not good enough, you’re not adventurous enough. You’re the hero of your own story. You set your own rules. Never forget that. I’m trying not to.