A Leap into Reality


I had wasted most of my teenage years doing stupid, irresponsible things. I hadn’t stopped to consider what effect my actions were having on other people, or on myself.

My heart stopped beating as I peered over the edge of the thirty-meter cliff. I couldn’t believe I’d put myself in this position. My friends in the boat below were laughing at my hesitation to jump, which made me even more determined to do it.

We had decided to celebrate our high school graduation by camping at a lake resort. The surroundings were beautiful, and the temperature climbed into the 90s each day. It felt great to be healthy, suntanned, and eighteen years old.

As we climbed to the top of that cliff, we laughed at our friends down below in the boat. They were always talking about the adventurous things they were going to do, but never did them. They were the ones who always did the “safe” things at school. Now, we laughed, they were missing a great opportunity to jump off a cliff into the beautiful, clear waters of the lake.

The first to run and jump was Bryce. I watched him twist and turn his body as he fell through the air, and I heard the distant splash when he hit the water. “You’ve got to try it!” he yelled up at me as he pulled himself into the boat. It was a direct challenge.

I looked around and found my other three friends smiling at me. I suddenly had a sick feeling at the bottom of my stomach as I realized that jumping off a thirty-meter cliff wasn’t such a good idea. But how could I not jump now? My friends were expecting me to jump. If I didn’t, they would never let me forget that I had backed out and not accepted Bryce’s challenge.

Just when I was about to jump, I was overtaken by Kelly, who gave an excited yell as he leaped into the air. We never saw him hit the water, but heard him crying as the others pulled him into the boat. His knees had slammed together upon impact, and his legs would be in a cast for the rest of the summer, following surgery on both knees.

The three of us who remained were now really scared of making the jump, but we wouldn’t admit it. I remember thinking about my acceptance to Brigham Young University, and about my plans to serve a mission after my first year of college. I began to think of the consequences of making the jump. What if I became seriously injured? Was impressing my friends really that important?

“Fifty percent chance you make it and fifty percent chance you get hurt,” Bryce impatiently yelled at me from below. Not a very encouraging thought.

I slowly walked back from the edge of the cliff, then raced toward it, lifting my body off the ground as I soared into the air. I looked straight down as I quickly dropped, my arms waving to maintain my balance.

My entry into the water was like an explosion, and I heard something in my back crack. As I sank into the water, I realized that I couldn’t move my body. I felt as though my lungs would explode as I slowly floated to the surface, only to hear my friends laughing at the expression on my face.

Ted was the first to realize I was in pain, and he told the others to stop laughing as I was pulled into the boat. I mentioned something about the pain in my back as they laid me down next to Kelly with his injured knees. I was soon moaning in pain right along with him.

Then Kelly and I watched in bewilderment as our remaining two friends at the top of the cliff prepared for their own jumps. Despite unfavorable odds, each of them made the leap—successfully.

Since the nearest doctors were more than 200 kilometers away, I decided to stay with my friends and finish the camping trip. I lay in a tent for two days, shocked at my stupidity. I was only eighteen, yet I had risked my life for the sake of having “fun” and impressing my friends.

The doctor who examined my back said I had a compression-fracture which would cause me problems with arthritis throughout my life, but I still considered myself the luckiest person in the world.

Looking back on my life, I realized that I had wasted most of my teenage years doing stupid, irresponsible things—like jumping off a thirty-meter cliff. I hadn’t stopped to consider what effect my actions were having on other people, or on myself. I had been a thrill seeker who never had to face the consequences until that fateful day when I’d almost given my life just to impress my friends. It took a disastrous leap into the lake to shake me from my fantasy world into a world of reality and responsibility.

[illustration] Illustrated by Roger Motzkus