Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A new perspective

It's a strange thing to find yourself in a place you couldn't even imagine not long ago.

When I wrote this, I was scared to death of being thousands of feet up in tiny helicopter with no door beside me, mere inches from oblivion. I don't think I was completely honest about the extent of my fear. You know how we hide fears, even from ourselves, hoping they will just go away.

When I learned that my flight school flies with the doors off, I was confronted with circumstances I didn't know how to handle. I didn't think I could do it. Or rather, I was pretty sure I couldn't. But there was already too much momentum towards Hawaii to stop.

I suppose that's what my high school sweetheart meant when she told me, "You just have to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down." Give yourself no way back, and you'll find a way forward.

My first right turn in the helicopter was tough, in retrospect. The only feeling stronger than panic was the notion that if I panicked I would either fall out or cause my instructor to crash. So I sat scared and pretended not to be.

Yesterday, I found myself in another right turn, staring down through five hundred feet of nothingness to the swerving green ground...and enjoying it.

Then I made the mistake of mentioning this discovery to my instructor. In his ever-chipper British accent, he said, "Great, let's see if I can make it bother you."

He proceeded to lean the helicopter into a 50-degree right bank, which of course means your right side is more the bottom than your bottom is. Except I didn't have a door, so there was no bottom.

You know what? It was pretty amazing, actually. I watched the kaleidoscope of dense vegetation and scattered buildings wheel crazily below me and felt nothing more than amused, relaxed curiosity. Oh look, that looks like some kind of plant nursery, and look there, I see a swimming pool.

It's a strange thing to find yourself in a place you couldn't even imagine not long ago.

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