That Time I… Jumped off a cliff

Madelyn Rinka is a freshman communication major and news editor at The Current.

Ever since I was little, I have loved being surrounded by nature. From swimming in lakes up north at our cabin in the summer, to rolling around in the snow in the dead of winter, I felt my best when I was in the great outdoors. I found that throughout my childhood, my favorite memories were created outside, a theme that has carried into my young adult life.

During the summer before my friends and I left for college, we decided to take a trip over a long weekend through the upper peninsula of Michigan. Our itinerary was packed full of bonfires, hiking, swimming in Lake Superior and visiting waterfalls. On our first full day in the UP — also known by Midwesterners as the upper peninsula — a bit of a wrench was thrown into our plans.

On mile 4.2 of our 5-mile hike, one of my friends tripped on a hidden, muddy root and cut her knee open. We doused it with water and improvised a bandage — we were foolish enough not to pack any emergency supplies — but the cut proved to be too deep, and we had to scrap the rest of our plans for the day to visit a hospital and get her stitched up.

We were all a little disappointed because so many of our outings relied on walking, hiking and swimming, which we knew would be difficult for her. The three of us decided to take the rest of the day off and resolved to see how everyone was doing in the morning.

The next day, my friend was feeling optimistic so we hopped in the car and set off on the short trek to Superior Falls. I was brimming with excitement, never having seen a waterfall before. Practically bouncing toward the waterfalls, I was met with a sight that both terrified and fascinated me.

Imagine you’ve never seen a waterfall, unless you count the drainage ditch in your yard. Now imagine that you’re suddenly at the crumbling edge of an enormous gorge, and at around 30 or so feet down, there’s a seemingly bottomless pit of churning iron-saturated water. We had to yell over the noise of the tumbling water, but I managed to make out the words coming from my friend: “let’s jump!”

As someone who doesn’t classify herself as a risk taker or a dare devil, this sounded pretty similar to “let’s break our legs!” when it hit my ears. It’s also probably important to mention that I am very afraid of falling, and of course drowning.

But, for some reason, I jumped anyway — though only after doing some shallow diving to ensure that the water was deep enough. I can’t really explain what it felt like. It’s like letting go in a simultaneously voluntary and involuntary way — you jump, but you have no control over how you land. You can’t hear anything — your own yelling, your friends screaming, a random stranger we met on the trail whooping. By the time the sun was setting, I had started to love the adrenaline that came when my feet left the rocky edge and hit the cold water. I can’t say what made me decide to overcome so many fears all at once, but I’m so thankful I did. It taught me how to be present and live. Sometimes being terrified is what you need to change. So when I end this with “go jump off a cliff,” I hope you listen. Though doing so safely, I might add.

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