“Feel my ticket,” I murmured to my friend as we waited in line to get on the platform which hung over the top of the Stratosphere. We were 108 stories above the glowing lights of Las Vegas getting ready to jump out into the darkness.
“I know. Guess I have sweaty palms,” I replied as we both broke out in a contained laughter. We knew our fate before us. It was either jump off the platform when your ticket number was called, or look like a two-year old at his first day of preschool away from Mommy for the first time.
My friend went first. Strapped in, the countdown came and he disappeared down below. I was next.
Before going out to the platform, I transitioned to a transparent freight elevator. I walked over between the two guys who get jumpers strapped in and stood there frozen. I was a few feet closer to the platform and could already see what was below me, a sea of black darkness waiting to devour me.
“Ready to go?” asked the man who was in charge of getting people strapped into the cords.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I responded trying to hide my utter fear of just stepping near to where the attendant was standing.
I handed him my ticket and waited for some sarcastic comment about how soaked it was. He collected it and said nothing about it, which saved me from the embarrassment of owning up to how scared I actually was.
“Straps, check. Clips, check. Video camera, check.” Their checking off the list of items verbally provided some sense of solace that if I were to somehow die from this, they’d be accountable for it.
On the top level of the Stratosphere, there are onlookers who are contained within the glass windows who watch and cheer each of these jumpers as they make the courageous plunge. For every handful of jumpers that these onlookers see, there is always one or two wanna-be jumpers who get strapped up, realize their imminent fate, desperately agonize about their decision, and then turn back in sheer embarrassment. While in line, I had already seen a couple of people ahead of me scream, cry, and then bow out to get unstrapped and saunter to the elevator, which would take them down to safety. I feared I would share the same fate.
The doors opened. It was go time. Putting one foot in front of the other, I slowly stepped onto the platform while vigorously holding the side rail with my left hand. Now with two feet on the platform, I was completely out of the safety of the contained elevator. At that height above Vegas, all I heard was the sound of the wind and an occasional airplane flying by. Two more steps to the end of the platform and all I saw was an enormous amount of black space with my two feet below.
I promised myself that I would jump whenever the attendant gave me the countdown. I looked out at the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip in the distance, took a couple of deep breaths, and jumped out as far off the ramp as I could. My heart vaulted up my throat and I couldn’t breathe. Halfway down the line, I got my breath back and started yelling at the top of my lungs, rejoicing in my short flying stint over the hotels of Vegas.
The next thing I heard was my friend cheering me on, while he lounged in a plastic, white swimming pool chair next to the landing spot. As I approached the landing spot, my previously horizontal facing body was suddenly turned upright so that my feet landed softly on the ground, aided by the harnesses of the controlled jump. With my feet on solid ground, my undeniable fear had completely melted away to become pure exhilaration and relief.
A lot of your toughest decisions in life can feel like plunges into darkness. The darkness can be a scary place. You’re lost. You don’t see anything ahead of you. You don’t know where you’re going. And you don’t know if you’ll make it out to the light. So before you even put yourself in the darkness, you question your judgement and you start listening more to people who want to discourage you from making your decision. You second guess yourself and persuade yourself that it’s better to stay where you are now, safe and comfortable, away from the darkness.
If you’ve ever thought about doing something outside of your comfort zone, then do it. Don’t overanalyze it and mull over it because you’ll eventually talk yourself out of it. Your inherent fear will take over and leave you paralyzed to take the first step.
What was the hardest part about jumping off the Stratosphere? Jumping off the platform wasn’t the hardest part that night and neither was being in free fall down 108 stories. The toughest part of the night was finding the courage to take the first step onto the platform into the cold, windy darkness and out of the security of the warm, bright elevator.
Let your gut move you out of the elevator and onto the platform. Once you’re on the platform for your jump, there’s no turning back. When you’ve finally made the jump, you’ll realize why plunging into darkness wasn’t so scary after all.
**Plunging into darkness on the Stratosphere SkyJump…