I knew I wasn’t going to die. Or at least I hoped I wouldn’t.
I’d say it was about a three- to four-story drop from where I was, knuckles white from gripping the bridge railing too tightly. I’d been up there for what felt like hours, staring at the murky water below, trying not to pee myself or think about any of the six “Sharknado” movies. (Why are there so many?) I could tell my friends were getting bored. One by one, they had jumped in before me, emerging with triumphant “f— yeahs,” “let’s go agains” and indescribably bad wedgies from the plunge. They waited for me below, calling out their words of encouragement.
“You can’t think about it! Just don’t think about it and jump!”
Don’t think about it.
I repeated the phrase back to myself again and again, trying to hype myself up. Not overthinking it, though, was an impossible feat for someone who’s spent the majority of their life overthinking things that are a lot less insane than jumping off a bridge for the fun of it. For example, today I decided I would make the spontaneous decision to wear my new pants. They are khaki pants. Sound the alarms! A few weeks ago, I had a borderline panic attack because I felt like I was growing up too fast. I’m 18.
And the overthinking goes beyond the khakis-level stuff. Just to throw a real curveball at you, I feared the idea of confronting and owning up to my sexuality for years because a) I was Christian and b) I come from a conservative Asian household — so you can connect the dots on that one (shoutout to Jade and Beck from “Victorious” for being my bisexual awakening).
Overthinking has eaten away a lot of my life. And I overthink because I’m scared of a lot of things, such as wearing new pants and, oh yeah, confronting my identity — which is actually a lot scarier than jumping off a bridge.
So yeah, I jumped.
There are a few seconds of free fall between having the balls to actually launch yourself off the ledge and hitting the water. I wish I could say something profound happened during the interim, that my life flashed before my eyes or that I had some great epiphany. Sadly not. My mind just went blank.
To be fair, it was a little occupied processing the fact that I’d just thrown myself off a three-story-high bridge and that it was supposed to be fun. But for once, I wasn’t thinking about anything. I wasn’t ruminating on mistakes I made a long time ago. I wasn’t worried about how I looked or if people liked having me around. I wasn’t beating myself up for things I thought I didn’t deserve.
I hit the water and emerged with the mother of all wedgies, a mental note to see my chiropractor and, most importantly, the way it felt to surprise myself.
I’d done something so reckless and so laughably out of character that it excited me — a moment when I wondered, “Wow, maybe I’m not who I think I am.” The jump became my proof of concept: proof that I’m in charge of who I am and what I’m capable of, whether it’s choosing to stay home and knit or straight up skydive.
Now, before you get the wrong idea, I’m not a brave person — that’s my brother. When we were kids, he was always the one standing up for me and getting in trouble. He was the kind of person who would chase wasps and roll around in a patch of poison ivy near our house just because.
I, on the other hand, found fulfillment in being the teacher’s pet and absolutely annihilating the competition in having good handwriting. I’m still that same approval-seeking kid. There are still times when I put off getting to know myself or expressing my identity in fear that I won’t be accepted by family or those closest to me.
The only difference now is that I push myself out of my comfort zone a lot more, because I know that if I don’t, I’m always going to live in my own head. When I take risks, it’s like accessing a version of me I didn’t know existed — but trust me, it’s rarely as cool and quirky as jumping off a bridge.
Sometimes it’s about deciding to learn to dance when I know all too well that I lack basic hand-eye coordination, taking a STEM course when I struggle with simple math or reaching out to new people when I have a hard time even getting my pets to like me. Sometimes it’s just about waking up and being optimistic even when I feel like disappearing to some remote cabin in the woods, never to rejoin society again.
But mostly, it’s about proving myself wrong.
Maybe my love for taking risks is just me being an angsty teen, a sign of childishness that will wear away as I mature. But in the meantime, I’ll stay an impulsive coward.