The decision was made in the car on the way to the pool. I kept silent, for fear of deciding not to do it or of being talked out of doing it. Today was the day. It was time to conquer one of my biggest fears from childhood: jumping off the 10m dive tower. I had been up at the top once before, fully clothed, to take down a banner at the end of a swim meet. It was ridiculously high and terrifying. As I write these words, my palms are beginning to feel warm and sweaty. My heart is racing, imagining the view from the top. I can’t look down, not even in my mind. I know when I go up the steps and reach the top that I absolutely cannot look down. I must go for it.
After getting changed into my bathing suit and walking out on deck, I wave to my husband and kids at the other end of the dive tank. Thankfully the dive towers are open today; a lucky break for me as I forgot to check the schedule. I ask the lifeguard how to do it but no helpful advice comes. I’m sure he thinks I’m a weird nut job, it’s not like I’m twelve. I begin the ascent up the concrete steps. The steps are dry, like no one has gone there before me. After the first few steps, my feet begin to hurt. The steps are so hard, bumpy, and cold that it feels like torture with each one. Passing the 3m boards, I continue up. I should just get off now, and pretend that 3m was my goal. No one would know. ‘Yes they would,’ I tell myself, I will know. I pass the 5m tower and it’s beginning to feel real. No more bouncy boards, no bright turquoise. All that remains is concrete. Hard, cold concrete. I have been off the 5m tower before so I continue on up to the 7m. I am now farther up than I have ever jumped from before. As I pass the 7m tower, my legs begin to feel like jelly. Not so much from the climb but from anxiety. I allow myself to feel the nerves, feel my legs of nothingness and the tingling in my arms. I know I’m not dying yet the intensity of the fear is almost paralyzing. My heart is pounding so fast that I hope to not pass out. ‘Focus on the steps,’ I remind myself, ‘you’re almost there’. I wonder if I’m a fool, doing this now, and I wonder what my husband and children are thinking as they watch me go up.
As I reach the top, even without looking down I can tell that I am high, high up. The roof looks different from up here; I wonder if I could touch it. ‘What if I slip?’ I worry, thinking about divers on TV that have had bad spills. I allow myself to look down at the concrete under my feet, convincing myself that I will not slip off the edge. I look at the railing but it ends before the plank ends so it is of no use to me. I just walk. Straight off the edge I walk until I am falling to the water below. I see my family in the corner as I flail down to the surface. It looks solid from up here. ‘How much is this going to hurt?’ I wonder. And then I know the answer. Having put my head in a bit of a forward position, it hits hard onto the water, making me somewhat dizzy and sore. But the elation of having just conquered the fear pushes aside the physical pain. I did it.