She climbed the steps to the diving board, a line of children waiting to jump behind her. Mop of blonde hair, pink bathing suit, thin arms and legs. She took two steps forward, turned back around, and climbed down from the diving board. She went to the back of the line of children. One by one, they jumped off- cannonball, running leaps, twists in the air. As her turn came again, she climbed the steps, took two steps forward...turned around and climbed off the diving board.
This happened many, many times.
I stood, my feet baking on the hot pavement on one of the most sweltering days of the year so far. My daughter, Megan, really wanted to jump off the diving board but every time she got on top, she decided she couldn't do it. We watched the other kids jump. I told her I thought the scariest part was the last few steps, when there was no railing to hang onto. I said she could do it! But I mostly believed there would be no jumping off the diving board on this hot day.
Then, one time, she didn't climb down. She stepped forward again, again, again and then jumped into the air. Splash! A she swam to the ladder, all the kids on the line cheered. I cheered the loudest. She got right back on the line to jump off again. The fear was gone now and she just wanted to keep on jumping. She added songs and dance moves with each jump, her confidence soaring.
And so, as I reflect on this moment and the moments that followed it over the weekend up until today, I think it is true that "we must do the things that scare us" This could be a hard conversation, an unpopular decision that you know is the right one, taking a chance to interview for a new position. It is scary to leave the familiar, to take a stand, to speak your truth, to realize parts of yourself you have been burying. As scary as it is, there is frustration when you climb off the diving board. When you get so close to taking a chance, only to back away. At some point, the pain of not being brave is worse than it would be to simply face your fears and jump.
For Megan, a cool pool awaited and a sense of accomplishment and pride. The outcomes of my leaps are yet to be determined. But maybe it's not about what happens after you leap, but that you had the courage to leap at all.
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski