A few years ago now I, never one to do things by halves, signed up for a day of bungee jumping. About halfway through the day I met a girl a little older than me at the top of the tower, just before the jumping platform. She was all wrapped up in her harness and three times while I was waiting had stepped forward to make the jump, but every time she got there she'd collapse into a blubbering heap, crippled by a fear, and have to be walked back to the waiting area again.
This went on for at least 20 minutes (she was still there when I went back up for my next jump). At one point even I tried to help coax her out; reminding her that these guys really knew their stuff and wouldn't let her get hurt, and that she just needed 30 seconds of bravery and then it was done. Four or five hours later the centre closed and I saw the girl again, boarding a mini bus in tears because she still hadn't managed the jump.
I barely spoke to that girl; I don't even know her name, but she taught me a very important lesson. You can think about and plan for things all you want; but when it comes to the big scary crunch time there are only ever two choices – go back or make the jump.
For me, in that moment, I chose to jump. I remember standing at the top of the platform absolutely flipping terrified realising that I'd put my whole life in the hands of two men I'd never met before, wondering what my mum would say if she knew what I was doing, and thinking of all of the things that could possibly go wrong. And then for whatever reason (probably to prove a point to the guy behind me who was telling me I could go back any time!), I jumped.
Oh. My. God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's almost difficult to describe, but even six years on bungee jumping remains one of the best things I've ever done. The pure terror was replaced after a couple of seconds by the realisation that I was flying – wind streaming through my hair, no pressure at all on any part of my body; I had never felt freer. And I won't lie, as the water below hurtled rapidly towards me and the elastic snapped back at precisely the right moment, I've never felt more alive either!
I should say at this point that I'm no fearless adrenaline junkie myself. In fact, that day was one of the first times I'd ever done anything quite so scary. Until that day bungy jumping was something I'd seen people do on TV and wondered if I'd be able to do, so when the opportunity arose I decided to go for it.
There's an old saying that it's better to regret what you've done that what you haven't. I've never for one second regretted my bungy day (not even the next morning when I woke up with mild whiplash and my first ever adrenaline hangover; yes, it is a real thing). In general I'm not big on regrets at all, but the only thing I do regret is my decision to not do something many years ago, largely because I was too scared.
And to be fair to the girl on the platform she was obviously terrified too, so just going along to the centre, never mind climbing up the mountain of stairs and getting harnessed in for the jump she'd never take, must have taken an awful lot of courage. But I often think about her and wonder if she made it back there and ever did manage a jump.