My reflection fractured in the ripples of the pool water, the moonlight illuminating my face. My friends' pleas for me to jump into the pool and join them, to have fun and actually let loose for once fell upon deaf ears. I could only hear my parents' voice in my head, scolding me for so carelessly swimming fully clothed without permission. I bent down and dipped a foot into the water. It was enticingly warm. One of my friends' annoyed tone managed to penetrate the barriers of caution around my ears. "Learn to live a little, Leena, take a risk," she said. Her advice replayed again and again through my head like a broken record player, unaware of the effect it really had on me. It triggered a flashback, and before I knew it, I was immersed in the past.
The familiar grip of the reins and the rhythm of Strike cantering under me was the only reassurance I had that I could make this jump. The poles loomed into my line of vision, higher than ever before. I mustered all the concentration I could manage and focused on my technique. WHOOSH! Suddenly, Strike broke into a gallop! My muscles froze and stopped responding in my new state of terror. In the background, my trainer fruitlessly yelled at me to fix my position. "Lean back! Tight reigns! Grab control!" The panic buzzing in my ears drowned out his words. When Strike leaped over the rails, all I registered was the loss of my balance, and the way the wind slapped my body as I flew from Strike's back and slammed onto the sandy ground.
I stood up slowly and with care, waiting for the throbbing in my tailbone to subside. Tears pooled in my eyes, but I battled them until they evaporated. When my trainer managed to calm Strike down and lead him towards me though, I knew that no matter how many tears I wiped away, I lost the battle, because fear cause my heart to beat faster than the speed of light. Never would I have ever thought I would be scared of Strike. He was my best friend. But looking at his powerful muscles and intimidating height, I couldn't help but think that it was all his fault I fell and injured myself.
"Come on Leena, get back on," my trainer instructed.
The pain I had felt earlier had faded so there was no practical reason why I shouldn't hop back onto Strike... Except for my fear, and caution. It devoured me. Then I looked into Strike's eyes, the eyes that have always given me joy, happiness, and passion. Horseback riding is what I love, so who am I to stop myself from doing one of my favorite things in the world? Realization hit me with the impact of a freight train, and it was then that I knew it was better to try again with the chance of success than to live with regrets. I would never forgive myself for giving up the chance to try again. Besides, what's life without a little risk?
Nodding to my trainer, I hopped back onto Strike and urged him into a canter. I narrowed my eyes when I approached the jump, and I knew this time would be different. Leaning into a 2-point just as Strike's hooves left the ground, it was the euphoria of victory that caused my heart to beat at the speed of light, not fear. Then we landed, and the risk was worth it.
My eyes fluttered open and I was back at the pool, back with my doubts about taking the risk of jumping in. With a deep breath, I erased those doubts. It was time to take the risk, to live life to its fullest and with no regrets. I wasn't doing anything crazy like drinking alcohol or going clubbing, doing something that would harm me. Taking risks are about knowing when it's worth it. With that, I bent my knees and sprang up, diving headfirst into the clear, sometimes murky, waters of life.