I’m eight years old, standing at the top of a pyramid, staring into a dark, yawning hole in a rock appropriately called The Abyss. Tears fill my eyes. My dad is getting anxious as the line grows impatient. I sit down in the cold, rushing water of the chute.
When we first got to the resort, my brother and I ran around looking at all of the water adventures. The Abyss was the absolute coolest. It seemed like it was a mile high, and there was a room inside the bottom where we could watch people shooting through the tube that ran through a tank full of sharks! The next day we waited in the long line, excited the entire climb up. But when it was my turn, suddenly it wasn’t such a good idea. I lay down in the cold water, thinking about maybe turning back, when suddenly my dad gave me a push. I plummeted down the tube, screaming through the darkness. Next thing I knew I was rushing through a clear tube looking up at humongous sharks that looked like they were close enough to touch. It was horrifying and exhilarating. I couldn't wait to get back in line.
It’s a few years later, I’m eleven now, but once again I'm staring into a dark hole. This time it isn't a man-made attraction. It’s a forest canopy in the Costa Rican Cloud Forest that swallows a thin zipline cord.
We practiced on a few low-slung lines, which were exciting enough for me. But that training did nothing to prepare me for the sight before me now. I couldn’t tell where the zipline went. How long was it? How high? I was curious to see how my parents would handle it. Would they freak out? As it turned out I would never know. Since I was the smallest in the group, I would have to go first. I thought that was insane. I started to feel the familiar taste of fear in my mouth. The instructor clipped himself to the tackle, and then clipped me to him. Balanced on a thin leather strap, he released the catch and we zinged down the line, dark green leaves whizzing by, and then suddenly we were hanging over 700 feet of open air. Once I stopped screaming I could hear the animals below. I will never forget that view and how deliciously terrifying that ride was.
Now I’m fifteen and I am standing in front of another dark, gaping hole. But this time, instead of tears on my face, there is a smile.
I’m on my sophomore outdoor education trip in high school. We’re in Joshua Tree National Park, rock climbing, hiking and, my favorite: caving. We’ve strapped flashlights to our heads and prepared to crawl through impossibly small holes. For the next couple of hours, we struggle through narrow, dark tunnels and crevices. Eventually, we make it out the other side. While standing on the top of the rock, some of my my classmates whine about being dirty, scuffed, and cold. I’m exhilarated. I want to go again.
To be honest, the idea of leaving home and heading off on my own to college kind of terrifies me. It reminds me of staring down one of those dark holes, not knowing where it will take me. Maybe that’s why I’m so excited about it.