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Micki faces her fears by jumping off a cliff

I had always had a fear of heights. However, it was pretty inconsequential and did not play a significant role in my life. I was forced to overcome it if I wanted to tag along with my older cousins and keep up with the next activity or adventure they were planning. This time, it was to off to Blueberry Island. The island was an uninhabited rocky outcropping near my grandparents’ lake house in Montreal, Canada, accessed by kayak or motorboat. It was known for its abundant growth of wild blueberries every summer, hence its nickname.

Jumping off a cliff is never my idea of fun, even if I have done it before. Or so I was made to believe. Since my cousins had pressured me into doing all sorts of crazy things with them in the past, I took it at face value when I was told that this was no big deal and that, of course, I had jumped from the highest point off Blueberry Island before. As it turned out, my cousins were wrong.

“Ready?” my cousin Sam asked me.

“Sure, but you’re going first,” I replied, squinting in the sunlight that was dancing on the water below me, the towering evergreens swaying slightly on the distant shore.


“Three, two, one!” I counted down for him as he ran straight off the cliff, plummeting into the shimmering depths, about thirty-five feet below.

Then it was my turn. I took a few deep breaths and then hurled myself off the cliff, following his lead. I thought I would glide elegantly through the air, smoothly slicing into the water. But it was the complete opposite. My descent was more like an unrestrained freefall and less like a graceful swan dive. Straight down, like a dead weight, with wind rushing through my ears, seemingly endless. And yet, despite my freefall, it seemed as though I actually had time. I was aware of my body moving, my arms flailing as I tried to stay balanced. It was like my universe was in slo-mo even though it was simultaneously on time-lapse.

As soon as I hit the surface, I was in shock. Total stupor, my body numb. Pushing through the coldness of the water. I knew I must be okay, right? After all, over the years every single one of my cousins had done this jump many times before, and each and every one of them had survived.

A few seconds later, all of that changed. The coldness seeped in, saturating my lungs. I couldn’t breathe; I was gasping for air. I tried propelling my arms through the water, but I couldn’t tell which way was up, or which way was down. I couldn’t see, the water burning my eyes. I squeezed them shut, though that proved to be an even bigger mistake. My life flashed before my eyes. The memories from that school year, times with my family, my cousins urging me to attempt the inconceivable. All of a sudden, I had a thought. A singular thought, in this moment of panic. That I would never surface. That I would never get to spend another summer at the lake house. Never have the opportunity to say a final goodbye to my friends. Not even a parting hug to my parents back home or a closing farewell to my cousins.

Lonely Little Cottage
Lonely Little Cottage

No sooner than that thought blanketed my mind in a heavy veil, I repelled it back. I still had a chance. A chance to escape. A chance to live. With one powerful kick, I thrust myself to the surface, gasping for breath, the sun’s rays painting my face. I painstakingly swam to the boat, still dazed, choking and coughing, purging every droplet of the brackish lake water I had swallowed. I rested my head on the ledge of the motorboat’s swim platform, depleted, catching my breath.

After a few seconds, my chest still heaving, my grandfather called out to me.

“Micki,” he said, “do it again. You were too quick. I didn’t get a chance to video your jump for your mom.”

I couldn’t tell whether or not he was joking, but somehow my head, still enshrouded in fog, bobbed up and down. Yes, I would do it all again. I swam back to shore, scrambled up the cliff, and ran, never looking back.