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Determination When I was younger, I thought of myself as a coward. I was afraid to take risks, and for the most part went through life passively, often regretting afterwards the chances I chose not to take. In the past few years, however, I have undergone various experiences which have negated that feeling of cowardice. The culmination of these experiences came on September 19, 1999, as I hung roughly five thousand feet over Perris Valley, and in that precarious position I came to a realization. Sky-diving: it is the true clich� of testing courage. The part of the experience which is most difficult is also the simplest; it is merely the action of taking a single step. But while the muscles allowing the movement are not aware of the consequences of their actions, the mind is, and getting my mind around that simple step is a challenge I was never sure I could overcome. I had been challenged before, sometimes by others, but most often by myself, striving to break out of that feeling of cowardice. I began testing myself as a direct response to the fear I had felt in other situations and the regret which usually followed when I failed to conquer that fear. I disliked being afraid, but I disliked even more the way I thought of myself as I succumbed to that fear; as a result, I would force myself to do whatever it was of which I was afraid. ...read more.


open, and how it would fly and how I would control it; I never thought about the fact that it weighs forty pounds, the equivalent of carrying a five-gallon Sparklett's water bottle on one's back. Although the reality of my situation solidified once I was on the plane, I will not say that the flight up was nerve-racking. I was apprehensive, a fact I readily admit with an expectation of understanding. It is a nervousness which closely resembles, at least to me, that which precedes making a class presentation, but slightly intensified. The nervousness increased with every minute, every hundred feet, every slow circle of the landing zone. A specific moment which stands out in my mind is that at which I made the simple but, under the circumstances, very profound realization that I would not be returning to the ground in that plane. Drawing out this tension was the fact that, because I was the first one into the plane, I would be the last one out the door. As I finally approached the open square in the plane and took my position, the apprehension had reached its peak. It has occurred to me since that all of my victories over hesitation and fear were, up to that point, brought about by necessity. The necessity, however, was not external but internal. ...read more.


of the fact that I was falling, and that although the ground was still very far away, it would approach very rapidly. I returned to a state of complete awareness, however, and followed each step of the skydive until that hoped-for moment when I pulled the ripcord and felt the parachute open above me. It opened perfectly, and as I floated silently above the valley, with nothing surrounding me but air for almost five thousand feet in every direction, I had two thoughts. The first was Thank you God thank you thank you thank you, and it was accompanied by an intense exhilaration. The second thought, also accompanied by exhilaration (this feeling would pervade my thoughts for at least another hour) but more coherent, was that I had done it. Despite the fear I had of jumping out of a plane, I had stepped to the doorway and then beyond. I had gotten past the fear and had beaten it. Never before had this conquest been so apparent; skydiving had, in a single second, exemplified a mental series of events which had never been so concise. The experience had focused and defined my drive to overcome my fears, and I realized that if I was able to conquer such a direct and immediate fear, it was possible to conquer all others. Though it sounds like an inspirational clich�, it had shown me that my determination was stronger than my fear. ...read more.

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