“Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by
its breathtaking moments.”
In a momentary lapse of judgment – or was it inspiration, I
agreed to jump from the tallest skyscraper in the city, the Boji Tower. The thing about towers is they’re tall — 23 stories, to be precise. Technically, it’s called rappelling, but for someone with a fear of heights and no previous
experience descending without assistance from an elevator, I was preparing to
plummet to the cold hard concrete below.
Why did I agree to participate? One of the best moments of my life — my wedding reception — occurred
on the 22nd floor of that very building. Plus, I wasn’t getting any younger. I was going “over the edge,” but also “over the hill” with
my Big 4-0. Perhaps more importantly, the event raised money for a good
cause. The Team Foundation, a division
of the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), promotes tourism
development and provides scholarships to students pursuing hospitality and
tourism careers. They’re doing wonderful
work to make our community a better place to live, work and play. I guess you could say my reasoning was
one part charity, one part nostalgia, and one part mid-life crisis — a lethal
The day of the descent started like any other: shower,
shave, a light breakfast. What to
wear? Time warp back to the ‘80s
in a pair of parachute pants? It
couldn’t hurt to have a backup chute just in case. No, a red, white and blue Superman t-shirt would suffice. Can’t go wrong with All-American
I was assured the brief training session prior to my descent
would prepare me. In the months
preceding the event, everyone kept asking about my big jump. “It’s
a rappel, not a jump,” I would calmly correct - the mere thought sending terror
through every bone in my body.
After signing my life away, I was fitted with a full-body harness,
helmet and gloves. A quick equipment
briefing – carabiner,
ascender, and most importantly, the breaking system simply called a descender,
and I was ready for my training rappel down one story of the inside
stairwell. One story I could
handle! Everything seemed to work
as planned, other than remembering to keep my right hand loose next to my hip
to feed the rope. Check!
Once I reached the platform, a crew member rechecked my
equipment and connected my harness to the lines. (Yes, I checked the ropes for frays.) After a nervous wave to family and
friends below, over went my left leg, followed by my right leg. The crew member calming instructed me to
let go of the railing and lean back. WHAT? LET GO AND LEAN
BACK? ARE YOU MAD? Without
a doubt, the most terrifying moment was hanging from the side of the building
and being asked to “let go and lean back.”
I knew my best defense against the fear was to trust the
equipment and believe in myself. I
slowly released my death grip, leaned back and shifted my weight into the
harness. Step by small step, I started
rappelling down the side of a 23-story building.
Truth be told, I was terrified, but extreme sports are about
pushing your limits and living life to its fullest. I dug deep and found the courage to enjoy the moment. Looking side to side was breathtaking. Looking down was another matter entirely.
As I continued my descent, I found my terror transformed
into total exhilaration. I was
doing it! I was facing my fear -
just me, all alone hanging off the side of a building! Halfway through my rappel, I told
myself to simply live in the moment and savor the rush of adrenaline. I was overcome with personal
pride. Not the boastful kind of pride
that requires an audience and accolades, but rather a deep inner conquest over
a part of me that was holding back.
Was it worth it? Yes. Did I conquer my fear
of heights? Probably not. But the experience has stirred in me a
desire to face more fears, take more risks, and live life more fully. Sometimes reaching a goal isn’t about
taking a leap of faith. It’s more like rappelling off a tall
tower — one small step after another until you’re on solid ground and better
prepared for whatever comes next!
Thank you to my friends and family for
helping me reach my goal as a top fundraiser. Thank you also to the Lansing Team Foundation, the Greater
Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the crew of Over The Edge for
making it all possible.