I grew up spending my summers in California, and every August my family would pack up the RV’s and travel to Yosemite National Park for a week-long adventure. I was the youngest of the brood, and therefore suffered serious small-kid persecution on a daily basis. This attributed to the desperate need to “keep up” with all my older cousins.
If you’ve ever been to Yosemite National Park you know that there is a ghastly tradition of climbing to the top of “The Bridge” and jumping down to the freezing cold river below. All the water is basically melted snow that runs down from the tops of the mountains so it really, literally, is ice cold. When I was only 11 years old, my cousins decided it was time I sucked it up and took a jump.
“Come on, Julie…don’t you want to be able to hang with us now?” they would chime in together. I bit my lip and swallowed hard. I knew if I said no I would be the laughing stock around the campfire later, but if I said yes, and happened to barely survive, my parents would go ahead and finish the job by beating me to a pulp.
I decided my life would be over if I didn’t jump, so I climbed my way up to the top of that bridge. I stepped atop the tall, stone wall and looked down to the icy waters below. I froze. Suddenly everyone was laughing and pointing, including complete strangers as they called me a coward (newsflash: kids can be mean). I gulped and held my breath, but still couldn’t move.
I glanced over to see my cousin Shanel glaring at the crowd as they laughed and pointed. I saw a fierce rage in her eyes, one I had never seen before. Apparently she could poke fun at me all day, but how dare someone else? She nonchalantly walked over to me and whispered through the side of her mouth, “Just do it. I will jump right after you and swim you to shore…”
“But I can’t…” I responded in a frightful tone.
“Just trust me!” she whispered loudly.
I continued to hear the snickering banter behind me.
“Hurry up! There’s people waiting who are actually gonna jump!” a random voice shouted from behind me.
I despairingly looked down in shame.
“Look at me,” I heard Shanel’s loud whisper once again and glanced over my left shoulder at her stern face.
“Trust me…” she said and winked.
Before I had a chance to say, “huh?”, I felt her hand position itself in the arch of my back and shove.
Just like that, my body was forced forward and I realized it was too late to turn back. I held my breath as I soared through the air and eventually splashed into the icy cold waters below. As I struggled to swim to the surface, I suddenly felt an arm wrap itself around my waist and gently pull me up to safety.
“You okay?” it was Shanel.
All of a sudden I heard a booming sound of cheers and applause coming from the bridge above. I looked up to see my naysayers clapping and holding their thumbs up. I flashed a smile of relief and paddled to the shore.
“Sorry about that, but you were ready to jump. You just needed a push,” Shanel said.
“It’s okay, I’m glad you did,” I said through chattering teeth.
“Wanna do it again?” she asked.