One Step to Freedom?
“100% of the shots you never take, never get in”.
In the middle of the arid desert, Colorado. A group of Cypriots and I among them, crossed through the desert to reach the camping site where we would spend the night. Continuously attacking us, the blazing sun followed our every footstep, as our bodies were melting down like defenceless ice cubes. After a couple of hundreds of metres of the walk, my feet started to numb. I was exhausted. My bottle, constantly in my hand, was running out of water.
“Can my day get worse?”, I wondered.
What I didn’t know was, that these obstacles were nothing compared to the inner conflict I would be going through soon.
“Does anyone want to have a break? Does anyone want to have a swim?”, Michael, our leader asked. Suddenly the feelings of joy and excitement replaced the tiredness and everyone was now smiling; I noticed I was smiling too. Impatiently we all followed Michael. That is when I first came face to face with my own Via Dolorosa. The worst of all is that I was not aware of how difficult it would be for me, that small step I was asked to take, for which I had to grapple hard with my own thoughts and deepest fears which I was not even aware of. How can you fight something you cannot see? Following the flow of my friends and climbing on a small hill, I reached the beginning of my slow and painful torture. I was standing at the edge of a rocky knoll, about three metres above the ground and beneath me, a tiny lake with crystal clear water. I could already picture myself, in the lake, with the cool water fighting off the heat, while my body was enjoying the luxuries of nature. As I lowered my head to face my reflection on the calm surface of the lake, the truth hit me in the face. I will never forget how shocked I was when I realised I was not ready; I couldn’t jump; I didn’t want to.
“Nicola, are you going to jump or not?”, Shane asked me.
The question brought me to my senses like . . . . . . .
“No. Go on. I will go later.”, I replied.
While watching them jumping with such comfort, as if it was fun, as if they were enjoying themselves, I felt angry with myself. Why had I stopped? It couldn’t be that difficult, after all nobody else seemed to find it challenging, on the contrary, they all thought of it as amusing. If they could do it, so could I. All of a sudden I changed my mind. I felt this urge, this push, the desire to jump as well.
“I can do this”, I told myself.
Once again I found myself standing at the edge of the hill determined to jump and once again I changed my mind, as my fears came to life; my body froze instantly. It was as if my legs were glued into place, I couldn’t move. Out of the blue, the battle started; the battle over which I had no control, the battle which was going on in my head and whose winner would determine my decision. On one side my limiting beliefs and fears joined forces, to stop me from jumping while on the other side my desire to jump was defensively trying to repulse the attack. The damage to the defence lines was unavoidable and since my fears took control over my body, I stepped back instead of going forward. Time was going by so quickly, as I tended to oscillate between the determination of jumping and the fear of falling. Over twenty minutes had passed since my last attempt and I was not looking forward to another one.
“Nicola we will be leaving soon if you are going to jump, do it now, or else come down so that we can continue.”
No! , a voice inside my head screamed. I am not giving up. I am not leaving unless I jump. As these wild thoughts were passing through my head, the sun sank lower. Trying to convince me that I could do it, I once more stopped at the doorstep of fear.
“You have thirty seconds to jump.”
I took a deep breath.
“Come on Nicolas!”, a friend of mine shouted. “It’s only one step!”
“Twenty-nine, twenty-eight . . .”
Puzzled as I were, I looked around as if searching for an answer. Suddenly I realised that everyone was staring at me. Was it really only one step? Then what? Freedom?
“Sixteen, fifteen . . .” The countdown continued.
“Hey Nicola, listen to me! Stop thinking so hard. Just jump! It’s only one step.”
It was of no use. I didn’t hear a thing.
“Nine, eight, seven . . .”
I looked down at the lake. How could falling equate to freedom? There were fluctuations in my feelings. I couldn’t decide. I couldn’t even take a small step.
“Three, two, one. Come on Nicolas we are leaving! Come down!”
I took a glance at the azure sky as if it was my last one. I took a last deep breath.
“I am coming”, the words burst like bullets out of my mouth.
I closed my eyes. I could hear the blood booming in my ears. The cold breeze made me shiver. I found myself trembling like an undersized flower in a furious storm of hesitant feelings and fears. I slowly bent my knees and jumped. Time stopped. My life was passing through my mind like an old black and white movie. I panicked. I didn’t want to fall. I regretted jumping. I waved my hands desperately, trying to hold onto something. A rock, a stone anything. Nothing; there was nothing. I wanted to throw up. It was as if the air was pushing my stomach up in my chest and out of my mouth. Even today, when I recall the situation and when I picture the whole scene in my mind, the same feelings come up; fear, anxiety, fluctuation, regret. The same feelings which filled me up then, which still do, as if I am there. As if I never left. As if I never jumped. As if it was all for nothing. Although I am not free from my fears, I know it was not for nothing. I took the risk, I took the shot and I ‘m proud of myself. The cheers and the congratulations I received as I came out of the lake, almost made up for the torture I went through. I was still feeling a bit dizzy from the fall so I sat to rest. That is when Michael came and told me:
“100% of the shots you never take, never get in”.
Now, this quote is one of my favourites. It was actually a quote of Michael Jordan’s referring to basketball. When I first heard it, I didn’t really understand what it meant, but after thinking about it, I became aware of its true meaning. It means that if someone does not dare to shoot the ball, because it may not go in the basket, he will never score.
“It’s risky not taking risks,” a wise man said.
In the middle of the arid desert, Colorado, I took the risk. I jumped. I may have not been freed from my fears but I learned my lesson. This experience shaped me into who I am today. A man who is not afraid of taking risks, and taking steps beyond the limits of fears and limiting beliefs.