Right above the put-in for our tubing stretch, there was a waterfall. Signs everywhere said, “Danger: Do not float over the waterfall.” But of course, people did.
My group of friends stood there and watched as bright plastic tubes and their passengers approached the waterfall. Do they have any idea how steep that is? We eagerly watched people go over. Some bobbled over the waterfall, struggled underwater, and emerged still in their tubes. Phew. Others projected over the waterfall and dumped out.
Oh boy, it is so fun to watch people fall. Scrambling. Swimming. Struggling.
Me, I hate falling. I’m so scared of it. Not only the physical feeling of losing control, but the potential embarrassment I could suffer. I try hard not to care what other people think, but I also try my very best to be good.
That’s right. I want to be really, really good at all the things.
And so, on this day, I efforted to be an awesome tuber and stay in my tube. I have some skill at reading rivers, and although the Pontneuf was moving quickly, I had faith I could be good at tubing.
On the first run, I got sucked into a hole and almost flipped. I paddle, paddle, paddled, and made it out. My heart raced. That was a close one. The next two times I ran the same stretch, I knew exactly the good lines to run and I was confident I wouldn’t flip.
See? I’m good at things. I learn quickly. And then, I take the safe route.
On the other hand, my friend Jon stood in front of the group at the put-in with a Modelo in his hand and a trucker hat on his head, threw his tube into the water, and happily jumped backwards into his seat.
Except, he didn’t land in his seat. He flipped over backwards, threw his beer into the air, and scrambled to recover his hat. Everybody helped him. Everybody also lost their minds with glee.
We all laughed at Jon. Loud belly laughs. In joy. In the sheer fun of watching his giant body flip and scramble and recover. JON laughed at Jon. That made it even better. We all laughed at Jon laughing at himself.
We loved watching Jon eat shit.
Later in the evening as we were getting ready for dinner, the favorite story of the day was Jon losing it in the Pontneuf river. Not just one time. Several times. Oh my gosh, people savored, did you see him? Wasn’t it so funny?
It really got me thinking about myself. About how badly I want to stay safe. About how I made a fun thing scary. About how I talk about being courageous and yet sometimes I am so scared to fail, I cry my eyes out just imagining it happening.
But what if my failures are helping others learn? What if my mistakes are teaching people a better way? What if my stumble gives people a laugh? What if my bravery and courage inspires others to take risks and ease up on themselves?
All of those things are so much better outcomes than me looking good and being good and getting things perfect.
I am afraid to fail. I am afraid to be embarrassed. I am afraid to be rejected. Those fears feel tight in my body and sad in my mind. Those fears are a choice I don’t have to keep repeating. I can choose courage instead.
Dear, struggling, swimming, scrambling reader: Maybe safety shouldn’t come first. Maybe joy should come first. Maybe life should come first. Maybe love should come first. Maybe you taking that risk and doing that thing and failing is going to be so good for you and so inspiring to others.
Thank you, Jon. I learned a lot from you that day.
Thank you for falling. And thank all of you out there who are taking risks and doing incredible things and living a passionate life and failing along the way.
You have no idea how much joy your imperfection inspires. You have no idea who is watching you and learning to be brave.