A Lesson in Flying

Describe a circumstance, obstacle or conflict in your life, and the skills and resources you used to resolve it. Did it change you? If so, how?

They call it free falling for a reason. There’s something liberating that comes with taking the plunge, but that sense of freedom didn’t come easily for me.

My sophomore year of high school, I joined the Durango High School’s dive team. Our renegade group consisted of two ex-gymnasts, a freestyle skier, my sister, and me. With no prior experience, I dove head first into an entirely new sport. As the rest of my team soared to high places and conquered an assortment of optional dives, I continually struggled to overcome even the most basic tricks. One dive in particular–the reverse dive– struck white-hot fear in my heart. Panic gripped me tight and didn’t let go. Without that dive, I was stuck. I couldn’t progress, and I quickly fell behind the rest of my team.

Practice after practice, I grew increasingly frustrated. My heart grew weary with failure and disappointment, even though my coach encouraged me in every way he could. He offered incentives, repeatedly went over the mechanics with me; nothing worked. Coach Mark could see I was breaking down. One day at practice he pulled me aside. Waiting to hear the same old lecture, I was surprised when at first he said nothing. No words of wisdom were uttered. Instead, he simply pushed a plastic bracelet into the palm of my hand: almost inaudibly he said, “Because I believe in you.” Etched on the side of the band was a single, potent word: courage. The gesture spoke volumes to me, more than any grandiose speech ever could.

I never knew what courage meant until I became a diver. Courage isn’t the accomplishment of grand feats or impressive acts. No. True courage is facing your fears head-on, all the while knowing you may never overcome them. It is the strength to fight even when you have nothing left to give and trusting enough to let go of your deepest fears.

I didn’t become courageous the day my coach gave me that bracelet, nor when I finally pushed myself to do a successful reverse dive. Diving didn’t make me brave; it simply awakened the bravery I already held inside me. Sometimes we need to be reminded of our own strength. My coach’s reminder keeps me strong in more than just my athletics. As courage stirs inside me, my anxiety dwindles down to nothing. Now when I soar through the air, I carry that courage with me. And what I once considered falling, only feels like flying.

Leave a Comment