Zip Lining

Zip lining 1                       Zip lining 2

Originally posted on November 6, 2012

Since I keep getting asked about my recent zip-lining experience, I figured it’s about time I shared it with you.

First, let’s start with this basic fact: I’m absolutely terrified of heights, so I was not looking forward to zip-lining at all. I only did it because my friends were convinced it would be a fun adventure for all of us to try together.

Let me also warn you that this is not a story about me facing my fears to learn that I actually love zip-lining and have become more empowered because of it. I did learn some valuable lessons, but they’re different from what you might expect. With that in mind, here’s my zip-lining story…

My first task was to climb a 50-foot telephone pole, and I was not happy about it. When I got to the top, winds whipping wildly, I held on with a death grip, petrified to look down and panicked that I’d fall. My feet were frozen on the platform, and I truly believed in that moment I’d have to live on my tiny square of safety forever.

Meanwhile, my guide kept asking me philosophical questions like: “What are you most afraid of?” “Are you scared of losing control?” I know I was supposed to be cooperative and pour out my inner fears, but all I really wanted to do was punch the guy. In fact, pushing him off the platform and getting rid of him altogether would have been even better.

Clearly, my options for survival were not good.

The truth is, there wasn’t any one thing I was particularly afraid of, or at least anything I could pinpoint in the moment. All I knew was that I was doing something everyone said would be rewarding, and it didn’t feel that way at all.

When I finally took a leap from the platform, I thought I’d be zooming along at a crazy high speed. It turned out to be a much more reasonable ride, and the experience wasn’t so bad after all.

I still can’t say I loved zip-lining by any stretch, but I got through it a lot better than expected.

Looking back, I think we’ve all been in situations where we’re nervous to take that leap of faith, with people around us convinced it’ll all be fine.  And usually they’re right. But it’s still hard to do something that scares you, and it’s no fun having other people tell you what to do, or suggesting how you should feel about it.

I sometimes see our clients dealing with that same conflict, particularly first-time home buyers. Committing to a mortgage loan for the first time is a scary, overwhelming ordeal. As much as we may say it’s a worthwhile investment (and, of course, I truly believe that it is), it’s hard to absorb that message when so much is at stake. It can truly feel like jumping off a ledge with nothing to catch you if you fall.

Out of everything I learned from zip-lining, my most important take-away was to remember how threatening the fear of the unknown can be, and to not push someone when they’re feeling panicked in that moment.

While the actual ride – whether it’s applying for a mortgage loan or zip lining – usually turns out to be far less scary or dangerous than we anticipate, we all need to leap on our own time and terms, and no one should be telling us how to think or feel as we prepare to take that first step. All we can do is offer support from start to finish, and be there in the unlikely event that they trip or fall.

So when you’re standing at a cliff, how do you manage to move forward? And when people around you are hesitating to take a leap, what do you think is the best way to help?

– Sarah Valentini


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