I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but I remember that before we started out I knew one thing: I don’t do water.
But as our raft made it around the bend and particularly angry-looking rapids started drifting into view, it became pretty obvious that it was no longer up for argument – I was doing it.
Glancing around at the others in the raft, everyone smiled and geared themselves up for the moment. Nature’s equivalent to the beginning of a rollercoaster.
Chris tapped my leg. “You ready for this, man?” he asked.
I nodded and looked back up the river. I supposed I had better be ready because there weren’t any brakes on this thing that anybody told me about. I would’ve used them by now.
Hours earlier on the shore, Chris and I had talked a lot about my fear of water and how I was having second thoughts about doing this. I’ve always been intimidated by water, and flying down rapids wasn’t exactly my idea of a good time.
“Listen, I’m not going to make you do anything that you really don’t want to do,” he said. “In the end, it’s your choice. But sometimes it’s pushing yourself to do the things you’re afraid of that makes you who you are.”
Chris was the leader of our group. I could tell he just wanted me to have a good time and not feel left out. So I agreed; I would do it. He had done this before, and said he was sure I wouldn’t regret the experience. He seemed genuine. I liked him.
We started to speed up and the raft started to rock like the water had started to boil. How did I get talked into this? What could I have been thinking? As the water got more and more intense, I stopped thinking and Chris started directing our group with instructions.
The water came alive.
Forward! Back-paddle! Turn left!
Rocks appeared and disappeared. Water churned by. I bounced like a ping-pong, trying to keep track of the Chris’ commands and what I was doing, pushing the oar into the water again and again.
Then it happened.
Somewhere between the wondering if I could really do this and feeling our raft spring off a rock, it happened – I forgot about everything and just had fun.
There’s a Zen mindset you go into when you’re rafting. Stress, problems, thoughts – everything kind of just rushes away with the water. You give in and realize the force of nature that you’re riding. You see the power of the river.
After whipping through the worst of everything, the water calmed, and everyone cheered, not really believing we just did all of that. I looked up at Chris.
“I thought you didn’t ‘do’ water?” he said.
I smiled. “I just did.”
There’s a lot of things I didn’t do before Outward Bound, and rafting with Chris and the rest of the group taught me if I face my fears and approach something with a lot of heart, there’s not much that I can’t do.
So now the question is: when do we go again?
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