On Tuesday, I played on my new slackline. What you do is tie this flat, but wide rope around two trees and try walking across it without falling off. In order to get good enough to walk across, however, you have to fall. Lots of times. I fell on my face, my knees, and my head. Ironically, the worst injury I had came from sitting on it, bouncing too hard, and tipping over backwards onto the dirt. Slacklining is hard. Being a clumsy oaf is harder.
Tuesday night I learned how to longboard, or began to learn, I should say. Longboarding is terrifying, mainly because I have very little balance and I’m not super flexible and my body tenses up when I ride. I remember kicking against the back wheel, sending my board flying, and I crinkled up like a preying mantis midair before smashing into asphalt. It was painful, and I did not want to get back on. I fell on my butt while practicing at home, and while practicing at Utah State on Thursday, I tripped and nearly fell in front of lots of people. Talk about embarrassing.
Thursday was also the day that Kori and I jumped off the bridge at First Dam. The water was FREEZING, and when I tried climbing out, I smashed my knee against a huge rock and it started bleeding. Delicious.
Finally, yesterday I did something I’ve had nightmares about for years, but I’ll get to that later.
What do all of these random and painful events have in common? Faith.
When people ask me, “What are some tips to remember when you slackline?”, the only thing I can say is, “Don’t think. Just walk.” That is the best piece of advice I can give. By tackling the slackline as if it’s a new and frightening experience, you end up falling a lot. It isn’t until you look to the end of the line and start walking with confidence that you can do it. Analyzing it too much can freeze your body into inaction or stiffness, and if you are stiff at all, you do not make it across. Period. Just like action helps us conquer slacklines, active faith gets you through trials and hard things. You just have to focus on the bigger picture and run with it. Lesson one.
Lesson two: the worst thing falling can do to you is scare you away from getting back on. With my limited longboarding experience, that has proven to be true. There was a moment in the church parking lot when I was walking away from a fall, tears nearly leaving my eyes, and the thought, “I hate this. Why would I keep trying this?” going through my head. Soon after thinking those things, I lifted my head and saw my friend Stacie gliding across the parking lot on her board with what seemed like little to no effort. She was beautiful on that thing. And then I realized that that was why trying again was worth it. If I could eventually glide through a parking lot with the wind sliding through my hair like that, it was worth it to try again. So I got back up and tried. And I’ve kept trying, in spite of bruises, and I can feel myself get better as a rider and as a person. As a kid, I always ran away from things that hurt me. This time, I run towards them. That’s what faith does. Faith pushes you to run towards the things you fear, in spite of the fact that you’ll probably fall. But if you don’t run, you can’t fly one day. How bummed would you be to miss out on that?
The third lesson I learned is that you’ve just got to leap without hesitation. We hesitated at that bridge at First Dam, and in the time it took for us to jump, our judgment was clouded by fear. The minute we jumped, however, we felt exhilarated. That’s what life is for: to jump and feel the following exhilaration. You never know how fun or how rewarding something will be until you try.
Which is why Saturday found my sister and I strapped upside down from the Sky Coaster at Lagoon. You know that big thing that they swing bunches of people from (like a pendulum) that also happens to be 150 feet in the air? Yeah. That’s the Sky Coaster. I’ve had nightmares about that ride for many years, but I just had to do it. The worst part was being dragged upward and having to stare at the ground, which looked so, so far away. Then I pulled the rope and we were off, and in that moment that we swung up on the other side, I stretched my arms and felt the best feeling in the whole world: accomplishment, adrenaline, wonder.
That’s what faith is. Jumping in spite of the fall. Falling in spite of the ideal perfect. Getting back on in spite of fear. This week I fell, and nothing has been more rewarding.