Parasailing wasn't always the thing I wanted most to do. Frankly, it wasn't even on my radar until several years ago. I wanted to hang glide. Why, you ask, would I want to jump off a cliff with the equivalent of a fake set of wings being my only security? Because I wanted to feel like I was flying through the air unencumbered by such things as an airplane.
Maybe I saw one too many Superman movies. I don't know. What I do know is that I've wanted to hang glide since I was a child. It wasn't until my cousin Jill suggested parasailing as a much safer alternative for achieving the sensation I desired that I combined my desire to fly with my dream of going to Hawaii. So for years now, I have dreamed of parasailing in Hawaii.
Fast-forward to my Hawaiian expedition with two friends. I wasted no time in sharing my dream. Their response? An article on a freak, fatal parasailing accident. This was not exactly the kind of unbridled enthusiasm I was hoping for.
The Oahu portion of our trip came and went with no better news for my bucket-list goal. In fact, a hotel employee told us they stopped recommending it at all because it was too dangerous. This further cemented my friends' vehement attempts at nixing my plans. Okay, so Oahu was out. Next stop Kauai.
Kauai is not exactly the place for parasailing. Hiking or golf, yes. Parasailing, no. Next.
Maui is what I believe you find in the dictionary when you look up the word "paradise." And so it was there that I decided I would fulfill my dream.
Now might be a good time to mention that soaring high in the air above the waters of the Pacific is not something anyone who knows me, even in passing, would associate with me. I have not been known to be synonymous with adventure. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that I am a master worrier, someone who can see the potential worst-case scenario in just about any situation. It's a gift, I know.
So the question was this: Would I cater to my fear or my heart's desire? And isn't that really what it comes down to for all of us?
Most of us walk through life unconsciously living out belief systems that were either handed down to us by previous generations or by assumptions we made about life based on our own worst experiences. In either case, we are not basing our choices on truth but rather on skewed perceptions that set extraordinary limits on our lives.
As I got dressed for my parasailing excursion, I felt a strange mixture of nervousness and excitement. I saw this as the opportunity for a fresh start, a chance to choose consciously what I wanted to do and to lay to rest once and for all generations of women in my family whose choices were governed by fear. This was my opportunity to experience a loving universe that would support me if I would but stay true to my core.
When my friends and I arrived at the designated spot on the beach, I had several pages of waivers to sign -- another reminder that there was actual physical risk involved with this activity. I signed the papers. Did I mention that the only boats I'd ever been on were the ferry that takes you to the Statue of Liberty and a dinner cruise around Manhattan?
Well, it turned out that you had to take the equivalent of a motorized blow-up raft out to the parasailing vessel a few people at a time. And the kicker was you didn't get your life vest until you got on the bigger boat.
I awkwardly climbed in. I wish I could say I waved goodbye to my friends who were probably assuming I was rafting off to my certain watery death. But I was already clinging to the raft for dear life.
Holy [insert expletive here]!, I thought to myself and possibly said out loud as we zoomed away. How am I going to get from this raft thing onto the boat? I only knew I had to. Let's just say I wasn't graceful, and I banged myself up pretty well doing it.
Step one complete. Now for the boat ride. Did you ever hear of trade winds? Suffice it to say it was very windy on the open seas -- so windy, in fact, that we had to travel to another town where it would hopefully be less choppy.
The ride out could best be described as a cross between a roller-coaster ride and Pirates of the Caribbean gone terribly awry. My knuckles were white as I held on to a metal rail with one hand behind me. No one else looked the slightest bit worried.
We were told how it was going to work and what the signal was if you got up there and quickly realized parasailing wasn't for you.
I knew I was going to do it. Everyone else was going up in pairs but I was on my own. The guide helped me with the gear. I stepped up onto the back of the boat and got ready. One, two, three, up I went! I was in the air, high up over the Pacific, looking at the whole world differently. I was going the way the wind blew me -- literally. It was magnificent and peaceful. It was a different kind of quiet than I'd ever heard. And the peace is what I imagine heaven to be like.
It was ending sooner than I expected or wanted as I started descending back toward the boat. I landed perfectly on my feet on the back of the boat from which I had ascended.
I couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I took my seat for the honeymoon couple to go up next. Even during the ride back over the same choppy waters, I was calm and relaxed and going with the crazy flow.
I had lived in the moment, free of the past and the future both.
As the boat met up with the raft-like thingy, I found it was much easier getting off the boat than on. We sped back to shore, where everyone but me disembarked without incident. I climbed over the side of the raft and lost my balance in the shallow water, getting soaked. A perfectly imperfect ending to my experience.
I learned a lot of things from my parasailing adventure, things I'm still processing, but perhaps the most profound is that, in the end, it's up to each one of us to shout down our own voices of doubt that hold us back from living the life of our dreams.
So here's to one item checked off and many wonderful and exciting adventures to come.
For more by Ilene Angel, click here.
For more on becoming fearless, click here.