I visited South Africa for the second time last month and it was as beautiful as I remembered. The week after that, I clinked glasses with new friends in Bangalore and now, well I’m writing this while lounging in the hotel in Bangkok and stuffing myself with Phad Krapow. Life is fucking good. But before anyone starts to complain about the injustice of it all, the past year has held its own unique set of challenges.
I went to South Africa with absolutely no expectations, because I was fifth-wheeling—the only ‘kid’ among middle-aged golfers and their WAGs. I did the whole ‘I’m 23 years old and I’m too cool for this trip’ thing and seriously considered staying at home, but who was I kidding? I packed my bags and left two days after the entire group and found myself in sunny Cape Town. The weather was blissful, especially after the heated cesspool that is Hyderabad at the moment. The ocean was too cold to swim to my utter dismay, although I should’ve known better (our summer is their winter, kids pay attention in geography class). After four nights in Cape Town, having eaten what seemed like an entire ostrich, crocodile and warthog (a.k.a Pumba, as the waiter cheerfully deigned to explain), we drove for 6 hours down the Garden Route to George, a place that apparently has a higher density of golf courses compared to people.
Now I’ll admit, there was only so much I could cycle, swim and spa (noun? verb?) in the manicured landscapes of the country club we were staying at (first world problems). It was a chance conversation with our friendly driver with the most eargasmic accent that led me to Bloukrans. Bungee jumping was always on my list of things to do someday, like a lot of things are for a lot of people. I never actively set out to strike it off my so-called list, but this just felt like serendipity. One of the highest and most scenic bridges in the world was a stone’s throw away and I was going to jump from it.
People have asked me if it was scary. People also asked me how it felt. The answer to these questions is both easy and hard to explain. I’ve never had a fear of heights, in fact, I always welcomed the surge of adrenalin from being at higher altitudes. I guess my fear so to speak was taking that leap. I’ll be honest, I’m a great swimmer but a really sucky diver. Jumping headfirst into a pool of water can feel like concrete at times and I developed an aversion to that whole sensation after a summer spent belly flopping at the municipal pool.
The day before I was due to jump, I practiced falling—mentally and physically (I hope I didn’t break the springs of my hotel bed). I also heard tales of the cord snapping; a particularly gory story of a woman falling into a crocodile infested river at the base of the Victoria Falls with her feet tied together. Coming to terms with death isn’t the easiest thing to do, but what helped was knowing that I’d rather die jumping off a 216 metre bridge than slipping in the toilet at 80 years old.
I’m probably digressing here quite a bit but Dan Fredinburg’s life and death kind of forced me to revisit my own thoughts on the topic. This dude lived—I mean really lived a beautiful life. Even a full time job and the mundaneness of the real world doesn’t mean you have to be chained to your desk.
You can leave your imprints on lives, places and people, or at least that’s how I aim to live. As for death, well Alan Watts says it best.
No work or love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.
To come back to what I was originally talking about: people asked what it felt like to take that jump. I’ll admit that I was apprehensive when I looked down at the valley between two mountains with the ocean in the horizon. The trick here was to not give my brain enough time to process the situation (because when it’s flight or fight, the former wins) and just fall. The falling part was exquisite—sort of like flying and meditating at the same time. I screamed the kind of scream I never had the courage to scream before. Being close to perceived death made me feel so alive (I think I’ve covered all the cliches related to falling in this one paragraph… more to follow).
I’m usually not a fan of very literal metaphors but in this case as you will see shortly, the siren call was just too strong. There are going to be times when you’re afraid. You see, there are going to be times when you’re scared to fall. But the payoff of charging through is all too sweet. I’ve been living at home for the past two years, and I usually get the ‘how do you live at home’ deal from people all the time, but it was actually living at home that gave me enough time, energy and the financial freedom to work a full-time job and start and run my own company. I don’t think I’d be where I am now if I shuttled off to a bustling metro to live alone as a sophisticated 20-something year old.
Now that I’m moving to Bangalore, I’m afraid again but for the opposite reasons. This time I worry about living alone and meeting people in a city that is now alien to me. I worry about how I’m going to do at the job I feel sorely under-qualified for but miraculously acquired. It’s the fact that I’m afraid to disturb the balance of the status quo that tells me I’m making the right decision. Kierkegaard, who is always good for a light read said:
Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
And it’s true. That rush is incomparable. Bungee jumping. Making important life choices. Saying no to things and people that make you unhappy. Ordering that weird thing on the menu. Asking a random person on the street for directions. Texting that guy or girl you have a crush on. Whatever it is that scares you, do it. You’ll have that pit at the bottom of your stomach. You will wake up in a cold sweat. But you’ll also learn to live, laugh and cry with your entire heart. Do with it what you will but it’s been working well for me so far.