Cliff-Diving To Change

I believe in the power of laughter, but not the kind you’re thinking of. I believe in the power of teasing laughter. Looking back to my early days, I was very timid, often too afraid to talk to a stranger in a store, or on the street. More specifically, I recall my first day of sixth grade. When I arrived I was shepherded to the schools rundown gym. This gym held dilapidated bleachers along either side of a basketball court with warped floorboards and cracked hoops. I didn’t know a single person, because I had recently moved to a new school district on the other side of town. I sat on the bleachers with every other new arrival. There was a plethora of sounds ranging from giggles to shouts, amidst a constant background of chatter. Yet I remained silent. Afraid to look up I stared at the laces of my shoes. When asked a question, I was unable to work up enough courage for anything beyond a one word answer. This event sums up my entire middle school experience. Desperately I wanted to change, but didn’t know the means to, until a summer day before my freshman year of high school.

Around me stood three other guys; my brother, my best-friend since grade school, and my cousin. The sun shone brightly from behind the few ragged clouds in the sky. Staring down the edge of a sheer cliff to the water more than 40 feet below, everyone but me prepared to dive. I stood there in silent terror, the scorching heat only added to my discomfort, as the people around me leapt. I watched as they plummeted downward almost as if time itself had slowed. As the splashes of my friends broke the glassy blue water of the lazy river below, my mind drifted back to that first day of sixth grade. My friends teased my hesitance to jump, which jarred my concentration, and added to my self-doubt. I wanted with my entire being to change, but until now I hadn’t realized the only thing holding me back was me. As my epiphany occurred, to the ignorance of my friends cackling below, I vowed to change.

As these thoughts raced through my mind, my friends teased further at my hesitance. Their laughs echoed off the walls of the cliffs and into my ears, taunting me. I inched at a turtle’s pace forward to the cliff face, and leaned as far as possible. The water rippled below in circular patterns around my friends. Fear attempted to assume control of my body and pull me back to a faux sense of security, I fought back. Using my new vow as a stepping stone I was triumphant, and in that moment I felt fearless. I knew that my shyness would be just another chapter of my past. I believe in the power of teasing laughter that pushed me to change. With that I leapt.

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