Originally posted 7/30/15
I made a really important life decision when I was 15.
I was at summer camp, lying on a fun island in the lake while watching people go off the rope swing.
My friend Beka got up there (all fit and fabulous) and swung out, somersaulted in the air and landed perfectly in the water. I had been wanting to try the rope swing because it looked really fun, but then my inner voice started babbling on about how I don’t trust my upper body strength and how I will definitely look clumsy and chubby so I should just pretend like I’m not interested.
And then it dawned on me- I don’t want to just watch people enjoy life, I want to participate. If a rope swing sounds fun to me, I should try it. Even if it scares me a little. So before I swam back to shore that day, I made a decision.
I will not miss out on opportunities to participate in life because I am afraid of how I’ll look doing it. I will not let pride and self-conscious living steal from my experiences. I will enjoy this life, in all its glory.
It probably wasn’t so articulate in my head that day, but my decision made an immediate difference. Before I left camp that week I went off that rope swing, I climbed a 40 ft pole and jumped out to catch a bar (which I missed by a long shot) and I sang with my whole heart during worship even when the boy I liked was too cool for it.
When I peel back the layers of what was going on at the time, I can see how pivotal this decision was for me. I thought I was overweight and noticed that the boys wanted to be my friend, but were more interested in my prettier or more athletic friends. I was concerned about looking good and being accepted, but I had also been taught to embrace me for me. I had an adventurous spirit and I liked that about myself. I wanted to be true to that.
At the same time, I was facing the fact that my mom had been diagnosed with cancer. I was seeing life as more precious and potentially much shorter than I had before. And as I tried to push my teenage hopes of being fabulous into this grown-up perspective, it became quite clear that looking good while swinging from a rope isn’t really what life is about.
In the 27 years that followed, that simple decision has proven to shape my experiences. I am not as attractive, as athletic or as smart as some, but that hasn’t kept me from jumping in. I am a jack of all trades, master of nothing and I’m happy about that. My life is rich and one of the reasons for that is that I keep choosing to participate. That 15 year- old has whispered in my ear hundreds of times saying, “jump in.”
“Travel to that new place, wear your swimsuit often, go on that snowboarding trip, apply for that job, sign up for that half-marathon, do things that aren’t comfortable, speak up in that meeting, play soccer on Wednesdays with your staff, wait for the right one, marry him, have babies, dress up for Halloween, swim with your kids, cook for people, start a blog, keep trying to have another baby…”
Maybe it’s not weak arms and a chubby stomach that’s keeping you from jumping in, but I imagine it’s something. If it’s wisdom, then listen to it. But if it’s fear- of failing, looking foolish, not wanting to get your heart broken or not measuring up- then it’s time to break free and learn to enjoy. As it turns out, life is both precious and short.